By David Kashak, CEO of Connatix
At some point over the last few years, content stopped being just a narrative and became a conversation. Social media rewired our brains and fundamentally changed how we’re programmed to receive information. Media consumption evolved alongside it, and readers have grown accustomed to interacting with a story beyond the text. We share, like, watch videos, and add our own commentary to interact with news and stories on the web. Text is no longer enough – we want visuals and a deeper level of interaction.
Looking at Ad Age’s recent Digital Publisher A-list, the majority of these publishers have one thing in common: experience is deeply integrated into the overall strategy. TheAtlantic.com, for example, adopted an ‘influencer’ approach and regularly features staff writers on their homepage. Complex.com has seen success with tailored content and regular video series. Some publishers are even moving away from text-based articles all together, and are solely creating visual content for their readers. Take Mashable Reels, for example.
We are entering an era of visual content thanks in large part to social media, and text-based stories will soon be a thing of the past. Much like when the internet disrupted print, publishers will once again need to redefine how they engage readers. The traditional journalism pyramid doesn’t address how today’s reader actually wants to receive and digest information. We crave the ‘Instagram’ experience – one where we can react to content, easily share it, and consume it in a more visual way.
Publishers must embrace this new consumer mindset and focus on creating sharable bites and interactive, engaging forms of content rather than relying on long-form text to capture attention. Current controversies aside, Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel, and Jack Dorsey were onto something.
Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat cumulatively see upward of 800 million active users each day in the popular “Stories” format. Spontaneous, realistic, and fun, these social-born video formats offer ways to go deeper—readers can click to dive into a feed, swipe up to follow a link, or use a hashtag to find similar pieces. Like mini highlight reels, they come in a mobile-native, vertical video format. Anything this user-friendly immediately equates to engaging content.
With today’s overstimulated reader, the opportunity to engage is exceedingly short, but perhaps not for the reason you think. There’s been a big focus on creating shorter content – take the six-second video ad, for example. But millennials’ attention spans aren’t shrinking. They’re getting more selective. Remember, we’re talking about a generation that can binge Netflix for hours.
We need to be thinking about commentary and reactions, not just clicks and pageviews. Successful content today is about the overall dialogue with a reader. Publishers need to think about supplementing longer form stories with engaging, interactive elements that can be easily digested on mobile platforms. Think vertical video, interactive quizzes, and turning writers into influencers. If it’s too difficult or takes too long to share something, the likelihood that a consumer will do so drastically decreases. By optimizing content for the device and making it easier for readers to interact and share, publishers will be able to hook readers today, and keep them coming back tomorrow.
Publications have been good about providing ways for readers to tweet pieces (or post it on other social networks), but haven’t dug much deeper into the drivers behind sharing, and how to keep this experience contained within their own sites. Emerging video technologies have already become available to help publishers incorporate a community response on their own site, and continue the content experience. And this is only the beginning.
As publishers work to better serve their audiences, they should look to the lessons social has taught us, and embrace the change. While this may seem daunting, this shift is inevitable. Social as we know it will become less of a channel, and more of a content medium available outside of the walled gardens. New emerging technology solutions, like video platforms and interactive commentary forums, will help publishers make this transition so they can focus on what they do best: creating quality content.
About the Author
David Kashak is the founder and CEO of Connatix, a video platform designed for publishers. Founded in 2013, Connatix works with over 3,000 publishers worldwide and in 2018, was ranked #2 in the comScore video matrix. Previously, Kashak was Director, Business Development at Conduit. Before Conduit, Kashak spent ten years at Verint as Americas Business Operations and Director, Technology Center.