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Brand Publishing FAQ, Part 2: What is Digital Storytelling?

Oliver Cox

In part two of our frequently asked questions series, we address some of the top questions that brands ask us regarding digital storytelling.

What is Digital Storytelling?

Digital storytelling describes a technique for expressing ideas, information, and especially stories in a way that spans many forms of digital media (including but not limited to written content, video, imagery, and UX design). A digital story is a single unit that encompasses all these mediums in one coherent package.

While a blog post will take the form of the standard user interface (UI) of the website where it is hosted, a digital story might be presented in a novel way that lends itself to the subject matter. For example, a story about the shallow nature of relationships between people could utilize a Tinder-style swipe interface.

By expressing meaningful stories in a nuanced, complex way, digital storytelling allows brands to create far more impactful experiences for their target audiences.

What are the Benefits of Digital Storytelling?

Doing some research for this article, I came across the following commonly entered keyword: “What is one benefit of digital storytelling?”

The first comes down to a common but ever scarcer resource: the attention of consumers. Attention is one of the most valuable currencies a brand can hold, especially for those that need to get prospective customers up to speed on complex principles and ideas. Yet according to a study by Microsoft, users’ attention spans are declining dramatically: from 2000 to 2016, they declined by 30%.

As such, brands that can create compelling experiences for their users stand to win a greater share of the dwindling pie of attention. Digital stories can achieve this aim because they are novel: they stand outside the never-ending Facebook newsfeed and the constant stream of generic-looking blog posts. Digital stories grip you from the first second.

Meanwhile, much digital content is static, and the user engages primary via reading (text) or watching (video). Users synthesize information and learn more effectively, however, when they can engage physically with the media in question. Digital storytelling allows brands to create tactile experiences for their audiences, using UI to add a physical dimension to user engagement. This is especially relevant for multi-touch devices that allow for tapping, swiping, shaking, flipping, and so on. By engaging all of the senses, digital stories lend brands a deeper way to engage with consumers.

What is Digital Storytelling’s Relevance to Journalism?

Traditional journalistic outlets like the BBC and The Daily Telegraph have increasingly begun to incorporate digital storytelling techniques into their repertoires. Just as with branded digital stories, journalistic digital stories allow media organizations to connect with their audiences more effectively, helping people access information more readily and enjoyably.

Take this example: using our digital storytelling partner Shorthand’s platform, the Daily Telegraph created a compelling narrative about the Fire of London. My favorite part of this story is the use of overlays — the user can scroll through and track the fire’s progress through the city day by day, while also juxtaposing this historical event with satellite images of modern London. The experience is at the user’s fingertips, and they can control how they consume and interact with the information.

Here’s another Shorthand example, this time from the Huffington Post. In this interactive story, Shorthand’s amazing full-bleed images are used to express the vastness of the Antarctic environment.

Meanwhile, Shorthand’s “scrollmotion” feature allows brands and journalists to seamlessly integrate both visual and written elements into their storytelling. As you scroll through the text, the platform displays images to accompany it, allowing for the representation of written ideas through photos and, as in the example below, video.

As you can see, digital stories are an excellent tool for a journalist’s prime mission — to help people access information in a digestible, gripping format.

Oliver Cox

Marketing & Innovation Lead

Originally from the UK, now builds custom strategies to share our clients' visions and stories. Novelist and musician in his spare time.

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