Jacob Gjørtz: rethinking stories for mobile storytelling

Can we really expect a story format designed for print newspaper to survive into the digital age? Jacob Gjørtz thinks not - and he has an alternative.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Jacob Gjørtz, VP marketing at CCI Europe, gave a talk at news:rewired in March 2019, discussing the shift to a mobile-dominant world, and addressing the challenges it brings for our story format. These are my liveblogged notes.

52% of internet traffic is now on mobile. The average adult spends over two hours on their devices. News consumers “snack” - they spend about 12 minutes per session. How do we get them to spend longer on our stories?

One problem is that we’re still using a story format designed for an older device — paper. Pictures are there only as illustrations. It’s a format still focused on the words to tell the story.

Quartz looked at that format, and came up with the Quartz Curve - the split between stackable, shareable content, and the longer reads. The middle ground (500 to 800 words for Quartz - not the same everywhere) doesn’t engage the readers.

Linear Visual Story Formats

So how about linear visual storytelling? It’s a swipe and scroll native format. It allows them to engage with the story in a much more natural way. Images are no longer illustrations, they’re narrative elements. They’re an engine of the story. There are various formats in this space:

  • AMP Stories: a format invented by Google, designed for a good mobile experience. Lots of images, less text, scroll through it at will.
  • Timelines: a visual format with more of a balance between images and text, over a time-based scrollable format.
  • Expanders:  developed by the BBC - they are less image heavy, but allow users to "snack" on a short story or expand into further content.

Traditionally, we create stories in fields, especially when working in a CMS. Could we break that down to small atomic elements: paragraphs, photos, embeds, etc?

Then you can take those elements and rebuild new stories in new formats out of them.

Jacob works for CCI which offers a product — Cue — which tries to address the problem set out above. Here's a video which explains it:

mobilemobile formatsquartz curvenews atoms

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.