Web Stories: The Time Has Come
I’d be remiss if I did not bring to your attention to an accelerating trend sweeping over the web right now, and one I view as timely since our attention is being pulled in dozens of directions at once and there is simply too much content to consume!
The trend is called “Web Stories” and the buzzword used to describe them is that they are “tappable” stories that are bite-sized and easy to swallow. Tappable is an obvious reference to smartphones and tablets being the primary device target for these “story containers”, but I’ve also seen some good full-browser ones being delivered too (that look good on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices). I’ve yet to see a TV-delivered container, but it makes perfect sense and am sure we’ll see some soon.
As I’ve gone through numerous Web Stories, I’ve thought that they’d be great for “How To” tutorials, general learning content, fun stories of any type, or even a replacement for the meme-driven videos we see all the time (I should note that I’m growing weary of text over video that, once you tap to listen to the video’s audio, the text remains).
ABOUT WEB STORIES
The trend is called “Web Stories” and these stories are small, self-contained, encapsulated stories about a single topic. Creating them is leveraging AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and is a big push for Google. Why? Because the cost to them of dealing with big, bandwidth-intensive web pages is extremely high. So for some time we’ve been seeing Google trying to figure out ways to make the delivery of web content smaller and faster and so AMP was developed.
The problem historically with AMP is that it didn’t offer a whole lot to the world so people didn’t do much with it. It was also a pain in the ass to use in a website and also to build web stories. But in 2020 the world has rapidly moved toward smaller, discrete “containers” of content that would be great on mobile and the tools have evolved too.
The other driver for AMP/WebStories are data caps by mobile providers that can increase cost of bloated websites. Even with a so-called “unlimited” mobile account, almost always there is a gigabyte (GB) “ceiling” for how much bandwidth a mobile network user can consume in a single month. Usually 22 or 23GBs in a monthly billing cycle, once a user goes past that amount their mobile data connection is “throttled” and slowed down significantly. Outside 1st tier economies in the world, data speeds are typically slower and mobile connections not as ubiquitous, which makes rapid delivery of encapsulated content like Web Stories even more compelling.
Others have recognized that smaller, discrete pieces of functionality are important as well. For example, WordPress fundamentally changed how the software’s back-end content creation was done with their Gutenberg approach to creating and editing content. Even Apple has delivered this same sort of concept with App Clips in iOS 14 so we don’t have to launch an app, wade through menus, only to perform one, discrete and simple task.
There is some concern though…
Some suspect that AMP is also a push by Google to assert significantly more control over the World Wide Web as Matthew Ingram pointed out in Fortune magazine:
“In a nutshell, these publishers are afraid that while the AMP project is nominally open-source, Google is using it to shape how the mobile web works, and in particular, to ensure a steady stream of advertising revenue… More than anything else, the concerns that some publishers have about AMP seems to be part of a broader fear about the loss of control over distribution in a platform-centric world, and the risks that this poses to traditional monetization methods such as display advertising.”
For more, read general criticism at the AMP Wikipedia page here.
WE ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION
One of the biggest problems Web Stories could help solve are the hundreds and hundreds of content creators, marketers, and others fighting for our attention that are inundating us with enormous volumes of content we don’t really care for all the time. We have SO much content that it’s hard to decide what to pay attention to daily. From news and information aggregators like Flipboard or Apple News, to the dozens of TV apps for streaming, and to the multiple gaming platforms we can all use, it’s becoming even MORE important to get to the essence of content!
I’m not the only one feeling a bit overwhelmed with what to pay attention to:
- VOX: Yes, the internet is destroying our collective attention span
- COLLEGE GEEK: How the Internet Destroys Your Focus (and How to Get It Back)
- THE GUARDIAN: Before the internet broke my attention span I read books compulsively. Now, it takes willpower
So something has to change and Web Stories has promise.
So you can get a feel for Web Stories, here are a examples of web stories:
- CNN World
- USA Today
- San Francisco Chronicle
- BBC News
- Washington Post(full browser example)
- PC Games
- The Atlantic
Finally, there is this one to try and excite and focus on creatives by Google:
- Google Web Creators: The company has created a blog to connect with creators, and there is some buzz that Google *might* morph it in to a YouTube-for-Web-Stories like platform since they discuss channels for web stories.
Here are a few other links if you’re interested in getting a sense of the tools out there:
- Google Web Stories for WordPress
- MakeStories: No pricing is available on this early platform, but it looks promising. My preference is to use the Google plugin in WordPress, but the templates here are fabulous and make the process of creating really fast.
- Visual Stories: Though this site differentiates between ‘visual stories’ and ‘web stories’, they are more-or-less the same thing. Lots of stories here which, by the way, are linked to from both “Visual Stories” and “Web Stories” on their homepage…so even *they* don’t differentiate!
- NewsRoom AI
- AMP Development Tools
When I re-read this post I laughed: It’s pretty dang long and doesn’t really tell a quick story, heh?
There is still a ways to go with tool development and I’m just playing with Google’s WordPress plugin, otherwise I’d have created this post as a web story. We still haven’t seen Adobe’s focus on Web Stories and/or many of the great iOS and Android platform apps shifting their creation engines toward these emerging story containers. But keep your eye on this accelerating trend!