The Stories format is dominating the Mobile First Internet
Online users have been scrolling through newsfeeds for so long, they take scrolling for granted as a way to share on the internet. But the newsfeed format developed on laptops and remains a method for sharing content that is very text-centered. You have to scroll through text and pictures to find anything of interest, and then you have to tap to see the pictures on your mobile device.
Enter Snapchat Stories. As the world moves to mobile, platforms are adopting Snapchat’s approach to communicating through visual tales. Users are updating and sharing throughout the day and night, putting their lives and events into quick stories that are easy to share.
Of course, once Snapchat started this successful format, all the other apps followed. Now sharing visual stories is becoming common, and the approach is working on everything from Instagram, Facebook’s Messenger Day and WhatsApp Status. Let’s look at the ways the “Stories” format is changing mobile apps.
The End of Vertical Scrolling
The day is coming soon when scrolling down your screen to find content will be considered outdated. In fact, that day is already here among teen. The timeline approach forces you to move through irrelevant content and search one swipe at a time. Along the way, you pass a lot of empty space and irrelevant posts.
The “Stories” approach puts all of a user’s photos and videos in a group. You can see the sender’s story all at once, without having to search for the parts of it. Whether you are sending or receiving, the story is a unit that is not interrupted by other posts or communications. Once you access a story, you see the whole thing.
The Return of Intimacy
Stories are shared with people you know. You don’t put them online for everyone to see. Instead, you capture moments from your life and send them to friends and family. This is a game-changer. Look at it from the point of view of the recipient, and you see the appeal. The person receiving gets a complete story about your day, and it is not in a public space where anyone else sees it. The story is meant for you personally. In fact, the Facebook version of Stories lets you add personal touches to your photos with stickers, animation, and drawings.
The Internet has become a place where everything you post lasts forever, anyone can read it, and you may not know who you’re sharing with. The Snapchat approach, of course, confronted the idea of permanent posts. Now, you share your story with the people you want and it lasts for 24 hours. The idea is to stop sending everything to everyone. This personalized approach makes the “Stories” format popular and is one of the main reasons it is being adopted by other apps and platforms.
The Replacement of Text
Stories are shared as pictures. The camera is replacing the keyboard for communications. Quickly taken photos and videos express what you want to say without all that typing. You are basically saying, “Look what I did today,” and it makes perfect sense as a group of images.
Users have come to expect a visual story without an explanation. You can capture your moments on an outing, show what you did at home, or share an achievement with a simple photo story that says it all. This is so much faster than texting,
and much faster than typing on a laptop keyboard. You send the story while it is happening, and viewers have the sense of being there with you in real time. Compared to the “Stories” approach, old-fashioned text posts are outdated the moment they are sent.
The Catch-up Game
When Snapchat created a buzz with Stories, Facebook immediately went on the attack. The battle is over who will rule the internet with visual stories. Facebook is putting its version of Stories on its mobile app, in an attempt to keep Snapchat from taking market share. Some would say the move is a bit late, since Snapchat invented the format in 2013. The format did show up on Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, but it is only now reaching Facebook’s primary mobile app. The question is whether Snapchat users will switch to Facebook, which has always been text-heavy. Facebook is starting to look like it is playing catch-up as it acknowledges the success of Snapchat’s Stories.
The one thing that may hold Facebook back is that it is not allowing users to cross-post their stories on other apps. That may be good for Facebook, but it is not attractive for users. Another drawback may be Facebook’s decision to show advertisements between stories, like it has been doing on Instagram.
Now Microsoft is getting in the game with its own Stories clone, called WindUp. In addition to pictures, you can add audio and text. You can also set the time limit for the story to last on the receiver’s phone.
A Japanese company called Line has come out with an app that allows you to send hidden photos. The user has to click on them before they become visible. This app also lets you set a time limit for photos to disappear.
Everybody is chasing Snapchat because it has surpassed Twitter in popularity with teens. The founder, Evan Spiegel, has a knack for innovating, and other apps seem to lag behind as they watch Snapchat and react.
The Bottom Line
It remains to be seen who will win the Stories war, but one thing that is certain is that visual storytelling is taking over apps. Texting seems slow and tedious by comparison, and even businesses are using visuals to communicate with employees and customers. The Stories format is king, and there is no sign of its dominance letting up. App developers who are addicted to vertical scrolling may find themselves wondering why they aren’t getting more attention. Many of today’s teens are simply growing up with a Stories-like format, and they will no doubt expect it in the future. Pictures and videos may not last more than 24 hours on Stories, but the platform looks like it has staying power.