James Tyner October 7, 2017

When it comes to mobile-first storytelling, the current mantra is: Stories are the new stories.

The format, popularized first by Snapchat and then opened to publishers by Instagram, consists of short — less than 10 seconds — photos and videos that users tap through on their mobile device and that disappear after 24 hours. They’re native to mobile, vertical only and appealing to young audiences.

“It’s not text. It’s not images. It’s not video. It’s a mix of all three,” said Jake Grovum, social media editor at the Financial Times. He and Fernanda Braune-Brackenrich, a Snapchat producer for the New York Times, held a panel about Stories at ONA17 on Friday.

Focus Your Effort
“Anything can be a story,” the presentation read. But because Stories are meant to be viewed on smartphones, they have to be designed to fit into users’ lifestyle. That means they should make sense with or without audio, be easily readable on small screens and not try to do too much at once.

Ready to Go? Follow the lead of Braune-Brackenrich and Grovum.

  • Get In the Mind of the User When designing a Story, ask yourself: “Would I want to tap? Would this make me interested?”
  • Size It Right For stills: 400×740. For videos: 750×1334. Use a slow zoom when appropriate to make still images more engaging.
  • Mind Your Crop Be careful when cropping — vertical video recorded on a smartphone tends to be just a little bit wider than how it will be shown in Instagram and a little bit narrower than Snapchat.
  • Stay Current Material can be shot on a phone directly or produced on a computer and uploaded to the platforms, but Instagram won’t allow any files older than 24 hours to be added to Stories.
  • Offline Editing > Upload Braune-Brackenrich said the Times uses Mac’s Keynote application to create slides to upload to its Instagram story. Both she and Grovum use Adobe Premiere Pro to create their branded vertical video.

Join Your Fans
As for why publishers should create Stories, it’s a simple proposition: Go to your audience.

Grovum said that for the Financial Times, which has a hard paywall, links in Instagram Stories help the company gain popularity with a new and younger audience. There is very little crossover between FT’s audience on Instagram and on its other platforms, he said.

Now that Stories can include a “swipe up to view” link at the bottom, he said the business gets tap-through rates “in the teens” for content that opens the browser and records a page view for website. Note: He removes the paywall for specific “swipe up” links on Instagram, which can’t be copied and pasted. He didn’t share figures for clickthrough on other platforms.

Perhaps most important, Grovum and Braune-Brackenrich said to not fear experimentation. After all, it will disappear in 24 hours.