What We’ve Learned From Skam

a lesson in the future of storytelling and how to not be a lame adult

I’ve always managed to stay in the entertainment loop. I have Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and I binge accordingly. But Skam? I had no idea.

I had no idea that there was a Norwegian teenage cult drama that had been released in a series of cliffhanging clips on social media for the last two years.

WHERE HAVE I BEEN?

I arrived late. Too late. Skam’s creator, Julie Andem, just announced on Instagram that the show’s most recent season will be it’s last. So let’s take a deeper look at how four short seasons of Skam rose to such success.

For starters, the production concept is nothing shy of total genius. Throughout each week during a season, single scenes are released on their website at the time of the event. If there’s a party on Saturday night, you’ll watch that party scene on a Saturday night.

The character Isak’s Instagram, @isakyaki, has 663K followers.

Characters have real-world Instagram accounts that might tease a new episode, a suspenseful clip might be dropped at any given moment on any given platform. The story often leaves off in a video and picks up in a text conversation released on the website. If Isak didn’t show up to Saturday night’s party, you’ll see text conversations with his friends asking about him on Sunday morning. This string of clips and social happenings then gets packaged up into a fully-formed episode released each Friday by Norway’s public broadcasting company, NRK.

The fanbase is a rampant global squad of teenagers who are enthralled with each of Andem’s carefully crafted characters. It’s the most-watched web series in Norwegian history. With no paid promotion or ads, the first season received over 1 million viewers and 1.2 million unique visits to it’s website.

By Season 3, Skam had spread to Denmark and Sweden, breaking viewership records in every market it hit. It went viral. Skam was a global trending topic on several occasions. When Noora, was waiting for a text from her crush, William, #WilliamMustAnswer began trending across every social network around the world.

Eva’s account, @EvaMohn2, has 578K followers.
So what have we learned from this new approach to storytelling?

Real-time moments resonate.
Millennials and Generation Z care about the world around them, so when it’s seamlessly infused into their entertainment, it resonates. In Skam, you’ll not only hear trending music like The Weeknd’s latest hit, but you’ll also get a heavy dose of current, poignant issues. When the immigration crisis dominated European news, Skam wove it into the plot.

Stories are social.
The social media takeover is real and we shouldn’t shy away from it. We can embrace these platforms as alternate opportunities for storytelling. Although Skam is a scripted show, Andem says she would often comb through comments on Facebook and Instagram to inspire future plot points.

Snackable is satisfying.
Skam has proven that short, bite-sized clips can be worth the wait. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t need to over-indulge in a massive binge-watching session to be satisfied. Sometimes short, sweet, snackable clips are all we need to whet our appetite.

Authenticity is key.
At the heart of this show is a cast of teens as passionate and vulnerable as their fans. The creators of Skam interviewed thousands of high schoolers to choose their perfect protagonists. They continued to listen to their fans throughout the entire production of the show, diligently immersing themselves in the world of their target audience to stay true to the story they’re trying to tell: an honest portrayal of today’s teenager.

So what becomes of Skam after just four seasons?

Well there’s an American version in the works. Shame, has been picked up by Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment. It makes us wonder: can the synergy of the original cast and crew be recreated? Is this the future of television shows? Will it translate?

We’ll have to wait and see.

For now, I’m off to dig through Tumblr to find English subtitles for a show I should’ve watched a while ago.