Previously on this blog, I’ve identified three brands that are excelling at long-form storytelling: Red Bull, Casper and American Express. Now, it’s time to identify the originators – the inspiration for this type of content. Journalists. In fact, a lot of the long-form storytelling produced by the aforementioned brands are penned by hired journalists.
Well-researched, hyper-focused and in-depth stories have been the gold standard of A++ journalism for a very long time. In recent years, news organization and media companies have been able to enrich lengthy features online with multimedia elements to create immersive experiences.
The New York Times heralded this new form of digital storytelling way back in 2012 with the launch of “Snow Fall,” the story of the Avalanche at Tunnel Creek. The first of its kind, the piece combined text, graphics, photography and looped video in parallax form. The response from readers was overwhelmingly positive, and within six days it was seen over 3.5 million times. Readers loved the feeling of complete narrative immersion and found it more exciting than the traditional alternative. “Snow Fall” was labeled ‘a new medium’ and ‘the future of web storytelling.’ These labels turned out to be spot on.
So, to spark some inspiration for content marketers telling their own brand stories, below are three news/media outlets creating exceptional long-form immersive digital stories.
“Greenland is Melting Away” – The New York Times
What is it? The New York Times made it hard to choose just one long-form story to include in this blog post. The publication knows how to tell in-depth stories that include interactive elements and engaging user-experiences. I chose this particular piece,“Greenland is Melting Away” (published in 2015) because the story is beautifully designed and insightful – and the drone footage doesn’t hurt. I’m sure the title gave it away but the piece tells the story of the Greenland icecap melting away.
Why it’s great: The story is stunning. It includes beautiful drone footage of the ice cap actually melting. It also includes interactive map elements that make scientific data palatable for the average non-scientist. They story makes a very complicated, science-heavy topic an enjoyable read.
The story actually scored a 2016 Webby award for “Best Individual Editorial Experience” and won an Innovative Storytelling Award in World Press Photo’s 2016 multimedia contest.
“I think what the New York Times has achieved, this could be the starting point of a new way of telling stories through simplicity and maturity,” Vincent Morisset, Innovative Storytelling jury member, said.
“Greenland is Melting Away” needs to be experienced to understand why it’s such a feat in digital storytelling. See it here.
“The Waypoint” – The Washington Post
What is it? The Washington Post put together a stunning and interactive visual journey through Lesbos in 2016. It’s an interactive documentary, using video, text and audience participation (in the form of yes/no questions), examining the experiences of refugees on the Greek island.
Why it’s great: The Washington Post’s use of video really stands out as it overtakes the entire real estate of a user’s screen.
The publication has made a huge effort to make video an important part of its editorial strategy. Micah Gelman, director of editorial video, spoke to Journalism.co.uk about the publication’s strategy. He said:
“We’ve been moving over the last year, year and a half, to make sure our videos are much more an integral part of the storytelling that we do for the Washington Post overall. So we don’t have videos that stand alone without supporting text or photos or graphics, we don’t have orphan videos that we just do because we like them but don’t really fit in with the rest of the journalism.”
The strategy paid off with “The Waypoint,” and the use of video brings the story to life in ways that images wouldn’t be able to. Check out the story here.
“Mind Control” – Pitchfork
What is it? “Mind Control” is a part of a Pitchfork series, called Cover Story, that spotlights different music artists or music-related issues. Each installment relies heavily on high quality, beautiful photography, and animations that are triggered by the scroll of a user’s mouse. This particular installment features Janelle Monae.
Why it’s great: The animations, layering of design elements and color schemes really make the content jump off the screen and pull the reader into the story.
While this story is starting to show its age (it was published a few years ago), the art direction is just too successful and visually appealing to not include as a stellar example of long-form storytelling. Experience Mind Control.
Pitchfork was one of the first to adopt immersive storytelling experiences after the success of Snow Fall with the launch of its Cover Story series and it continues to post high-quality long-form stories regularly in its Features section.
Content marketers can learn a lot from journalists when it comes to crafting and executing long-form stories. The above examples all take advantage of the advancing technology available at our fingertips to enhance content – video, animation, parallax form, etc. Creating interesting multi-media experiences make the time investment required to consume long-form worth it for the reader.
To learn more about how long-form content fits into a content strategy, check out our blog post: Short-form & Long-form: Where They Fit in Your Content Strategy.