How much of this are you actually going to read?
By Irene Krahling
The chances that you complete this article without skimming, skipping, and swerving around these sentences are slim.
Also, congratulations. You’ve made it past the third sentence; a feat in today’s world of click-bait headlines and listicles.
We want our stories fast and efficient. We want bite-sized bits that we can digest along with our breakfast–and that’s okay. There are still stories to tell; we just have to adapt and figure out how to tell them.
Here are a few people who figured it out.
HOOKED: Brb, I’m reading rn.
“Wait, are people going to read this?” Prerna Gupta, the future CEO / Founder of Hooked, asks her husband. The daunting question that pops into every writer’s head in a moment of insecurity. Gupta is confronted by this as she writes a Young Adult Sci-Fi Fantasy trilogy series.
She and her husband have left their lives as Silicon Valley app developers behind to move to Costa Rica. They’re chasing a fledgling dream of writing this trilogy; but no sooner do they begin writing, surfing, and living the dream when they are revisited by their app-developing mindsets.
To answer their previous question, Gupta began testing reading habits amongst 15,000 young adults–their target audience. They sent readers the first 5 minutes of best-selling novels. What snags their attention and gets them reading beyond the introductory paragraph? Well, not much. The completion rates were a depressing 5% or less.
Determined, Gupta and her husband tested an entirely new concept: chat stories. When the same 5-minute stories were formatted as text messages, the completion rate was nearly 100% every time.
Wait, go back. The completion rate was nearly 100% every time.
That statistic was all they needed to ditch their newfound island life and go back to developing their app, Hooked. Hooked offers suspenseful, thrilling stories in a series of text messages. Readers scroll through chat conversations on their own volition, triggering the next plot point with the tap of their thumb.
Since it’s birth in 2015, Hooked frequents the #1 spot in the App Store surpassing apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Business Insider notes its downloads grew from about 336 K in October of 2016 to about 2.2 M in March of 2017 — an unprecedented 560% increase. Hooked is currently being enjoyed by over 10 Million YA readers. While our reading vessel has evolved from paper to pixels, our inherent desire for a good story persists.
MIC: Txt me.
The future of journalism is a murky vision. Technology is progressing rapidly but the need for news stories and reporting is greater than ever.
According to Nathalie Malinarich, mobile editor for BBC News: “It’s not about dumbing down or giving up on context — it’s about learning a new grammar that works on a small screen in a distributed world.”
It’s the battle for your lock screen, an app you don’t even have to open. It looks like Mic’s new rich-text push notifications.
Mic is the millennial’s media company. It’s the publication that has mastered the art of the Facebook newsfeed video and a company that figured out how to get millennials to spend about 15 precious minutes of their day on their new video-only app, Hyper.
Their latest update leverages Apple iOS 10’s rich-text media in push notifications. Once you download and set up the Mic app, users receive breaking news directly on your lock screen. They can read full summaries and watch subtitled videos all without navigating to the app. “Lock screen storytelling” is what Mic’s Chief Strategy Officer, Cory Haik, calls it.
This doesn’t mean that Mic is backing away from writing full news articles. The organization is working to find the “right length and format” for every story by dedicating a separate team to writing notifications and optimizing articles. It’s finding the right formats to tell different stories.
Since then, other news applications have caught on. You might have noticed an electoral map embedded in a notification from NBC, or a highlight reel from the MLB’s latest game. Your lock screen is prime real estate.
So, yes. Storytelling is changing. There are new platforms and ample opportunities to experiment, but at the end of the day stories are intrinsic to human nature, and that will never change.