The Washington Post recently posted a documentary-style mobile video series entitled "Our journey to the front lines of the fight against ISIS."
Rather than the words-in-columns-and-a-same-old-photo slideshow, the series is a VR-style experience with photos by Alice Martin that operate much like the New York Times' VR app, where you tilt your phone to look around a lively street scene in the Syrian town of Tal Abyad.
"The only way in and out of the enclave controlled by Syria's Kurds is on a rusty iron boat that ferries passengers across the Tigris River from Iraq," writes Liz Sly, who traveled through Syria last year with Martin. "Alice and I boarded one of those boats to head for the front lines in the fight against the Islamic State."
This is not another YouTube video, or even another Facebook video. It is one of the first stories in Medium's new mobile video addition, the "Series." Much like Snapchat Stories, the Medium app now has a "new type of story," mobile stories that records short clips that can be grouped together to tap through. Apparently, "it's a new way to tell deeper, more meaningful stories that develop over time," writes Katie Zhu, a product manager at Medium who announced the new Series in a blog post last week.
Back in the desktop days, and carrying over into the mobile era, the dominant format was the feed: Facebook News Feed, Twitter, even Instagram's news feed. But after the success of Snapchat Stories in 2013, followed by Instagram stories, WhatsApp status updates and now, Medium's series, the "story" has become the fresh, new formula and the feed is feeling old. Even Messenger, Facebook's popular messaging service, has aped some of Snapchat's DNA in its latest update this week.
"All of the platforms are playing a game of 'Follow the Leader' to stay relevant and align with how media is being consumed today," Ryan Detert, the CEO at Influential, a marketing company for social media influencers. "It's the most popular way to share real-time dynamic content. And financially, it allows platforms to place more ad units in between content at higher CPMs [cost per thousand, a common measurement for ad rates] with interactivity."
Everyone becomes the main character in their own story.
Medium's Series offers push notifications that alert followers new stories have been added, much like Facebook Live or Instagram live and they don't expire. Series is not on the Medium website when accessed on a laptop, so it's a strictly mobile experience. But isn't that a bit weird?
"It's a natural evolution, as the screen changes and as the over-share generation gets older with better video tools, everyone becomes the main character in their own story," said Detert. "The story is more personal and creative; it gives you a glimpse into someone's life."
But while individuals may use the story in more of a personal way, brands will emulate that approach to get a larger audience or sell products. Medium's series is a brand-building tactic that allows businesses to use storytelling to get more customers. Mobile video is a way to seal the deal.
"I always tell my clients to make their posts more personal and geared towards your personality and point of view," saidRavi Shukle, a social media expert based in London. "This makes it a lot easier for fans to build that emotional connection which leads to more engagement and trust."
Mobile video is the ideal way to make a soft sales pitch, so the story could soon be a way to get more paid subscribers, like the Washington Post's introductory post on Medium, for example, and connect with potential customers. But it doesn't come without legwork.
"The reason it's important to clarify your message is so your audience knows your view on a particular topic or industry," said Shukle. "Your customers don't relate with the individual, they relate to the shared thought process. This is why when you see a puppy video on Facebook it gets a lot of shares. It's not the actual puppy that we like, it's the fact we all think it looks cute."
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