Scrollytelling: Storytelling for The Next Decade

Scrollytelling: Storytelling for The Next Decade

Reading the New York Times, looking at your Instagram feed or watching an ad on TV: storytelling is everywhere.

In fact, this way of communicating was born at the same time as humans. From our most distant ancestors, we all remember and build our beliefs on stories. But much more than their content, it is the way we are telling these stories that make them remarkable. It is much easier to understand and then remind facts when we bring some narrations around.

Think about religious books, classics novels or even blockbuster movies: they all rely on a narrative shape to put ideas in front of their audience. This lets us think more deeply about the moral behind these tales, and so keep them in mind afterward.

Storytelling is not that easy

Yet, it is not so easy to mold our ideas in ways that everybody can appreciate. Once again , this is not a skill we genuinely learn at school or at an early age. It is through experiences and sharing that we could develop a sense of storytelling.

Unfortunately, it is complicated to discover good narratives. They are still hidden in the flow of content we absorb daily: there are more short posts and news reports than long and thoughtful stories out there.

Some could point social networks or news websites, but it probably comes from readers directly. It is easier to read a tweet or watch a TV show rather than open a niche magazine or looking for a deep and complex article on our web browser.

The simplest UX

However, scrollytelling could resolve this kind of issue.

Scrollytelling is the composition of storytelling and scrolling. It appears around the beginning of the 2010 decade as a format to develop and show stories in a new way. It is now a well-known format to dynamically tell multimedia stories.

One of the reasons for the success of social networks comes from the supports they rely on. With smartphone and tablet emergence, they are now the most used application on our devices thanks to their ease of use through scrolling timelines.

Scrolling is probably the easiest user interaction possible on digital devices: even young children show capabilities to play with tactile tablets.

Further, scrolling is not limited to tactile screens. It works very well on the computer too. Larger screens highlight graphical elements and provide a stronger user experience.

It’s still about content

Scrolling down or up to go forward or back in a story at any time keeps the reader actively in “touch” with the story while consuming it. In contrary to watching a video, a user can read and apprehend the story at his own speed.

While engaging readers is easier with the sense of exploration and control scrolling brings, content is still the core of a good story.

It is not surprising then to see great names of journalism producing scrollytelling pieces.

The New York Times with the recent “Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy” piece by Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel  or “Billions of birds migrate. Where do they go?”  from National Geographic are excellent illustrations of storytelling through scrolling experience.

Still, these kinds of composition are rare within well-known news sides. Digital publications like The Pudding  sounds like exceptions and other scrollytelling pieces are scattered into “one-shot” websites or hidden amongst traditional articles.

Designing a story through scrolling drive the writer to build a smooth narrative while doing great usage of web technologies. The best examples of scrolling stories are crafted through collaboration between content creators, designers, and developers: developing a fluid and engaging story is a long-term work.

Moreover, encouraging immersive and long content limits cases for “quick learning” tenors and flash pieces of information. This link up to some journalists who coined the term “slow journalism” to explain the idea against the rapid consumption of information we live through nowadays.

Scrollytelling is not new but…

Scrollytelling is not something new. It is an enhancement of the classic storytelling that can bring more engagement for the reader.

However, there is more and more space for scrolling based content. While mobile device represents more than 50% of the web traffic worldwide, content curators are going to change their design to fill with these new usages.

Twitter or Instagram already rely on smartphone screens, but they are platforms that support short posts rather than long and elaborate stuff. Is there a place for traditional news mainstream to re-engage users? With more and more scrollytelling pieces, some newsrooms selling fewer and fewer newspapers are filling the gap and try to offer great content in new ways.

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