Why Long-Form?

Sara Olson, Marketing Analyst
#Fable | Posted

Storytelling has always existed as a foundation of human interaction. In the digital age, our stories largely come in a shortened format: click bait lists, 140 character tweets, status updates, and other content types catering to short, sharp bursts of attention. With conventional wisdom reminding us that only 10% of readers will reach the bottom of any given page, we are confronted with the question - why long-form? Why is this format still relevant and important? Why did we create Fable to support long-form storytelling? We, of course, have our reasons.Mobile Design & Single-Page ScrollingThe proliferation of mobile-first design has taught us a great deal about the frustrations of clicking through multiple pages to complete a narrative. Imagine every pop-up album you’ve ever encountered, where each photo loaded painfully slowly and prevented you from skipping ahead. In an attempt to improve the experience on mobile devices, single-page content became popular on mobile platforms - and that trend has transferred to desktop design as well.There are many benefits to keeping content on a single page. Not only do users avoid delays from loading new pages, this format enables users to discover content by scrolling. Scrolling down a page (particularly on a touchscreen, where you are directly interacting with the content) is an intuitive way to receive information in a logical, ordered presentation. Additionally, it gives readers a natural spatial orientation within the story.optimized-one-ps

A great example of single-page scrolling from Polygon.com.

Especially in the digital world, it is important to help users keep track of where they are inside your narrative (or content hierarchy, if you will). You want to avoid what I call the “lost in wikipedia” effect, where users click-click-click through various pages and then cannot find their way back to the overall narrative. You can still let users dig deeper by using interactive elements within a single-page narrative. This allows users to dive into topics they find interesting, but greatly reduces the likelihood that they will lose the arc of the larger story.Different Mechanisms for EngagementEveryone experiences stories differently. Some learners approach material visually, some need auditory stimulation, and others just need words. Endeavor to accommodate all users by bringing content together in a single space or page and offering different ways to engage with it.Long-form interactives provide a great variety of mechanisms for engagement. No, I don’t mean articles with high word counts and unapproachable blocks of text. What I mean are interactive stories featuring several multimedia elements. In Fable’s case, this includes photos, videos, interactive maps, timelines, and more. The elements cater to each of the different learning styles mentioned above.optimized-two-ps

Snow Fall, the classic long-form story from the New York Times.

The long-form interactive story is the best medium for incorporating different multimedia elements, strengthening your narrative by making is as accessible as possible to the widest audience.Bring Dry Content to LifeSome stories are naturally interesting... Others, like your quarterly budget report, require a little bit of creativity to bring to life. Interactive storytelling tools are perfect for re-imagining how data-driven content is presented. Instead of listing out different office sales numbers, consider how much more engaging that information would be in the form of an interactive map. The same information is conveyed, but the audience is more inclined to pay attention and remember it if it is interactive.And some stories, no matter how you try to cut away the inessential elements, are simply long. So instead of imposing an unending wall of text on your visitors, break up the presentation with interactive elements.

[caption id="attachment_16204" align="aligncenter" width="662"]Interactive NYT map Another great example of interactivity from the New York Times.[/caption]

Long does not have to mean boring, irrelevant, or intimidating. With the right digital strategy and commitment to the core narrative, long-form content provides an immersive experience for the audience that allows a deeper connection to be established. While short-form content may be great for keeping pace and driving traffic, it is long-form content that builds lasting, long-term relationships that keep your audience coming back time and time again.

Learn more about long-form digital storytelling in our white paper.

Sara Olson

Marketing Analyst