Visually-Driven Information-Rich Explainers

It’s an opportunity for visual storytelling that you won’t find anywhere else on the web.

Vox’s email announcing their arrival on Snapchat included this:

We’re using it to create a new form of deep, visually-driven information-rich explainers that we’re really proud of, and we think you’ll really like. What’s more, they’ll only exist on Snapchat, and they’ll only last for 24 hours each.

Source: Find Vox on Snapchat Discover – Vox

I read lots of tech jargon and buzzword filled studies and announcements everyday, but “visually-driven information-rich explainers” is a new one. I’ll have to use that myself in a meeting sometime soon.

Explainers aside, it’s definitely interesting to see how Vox, Vice, Buzzfeed, The Verge, Gawker’s sites etc are pivoting. Their once advertising and story heavy front page sites, that more resembled a traditional print newspaper than something like a “blog” or “news website” (I think of boing boing), are being put on the back burner to the flow outward of their news.

There are very good reasons for this that we can all take something from despite our business goals. Advertising revenue on that mode of website is drying up as ad technology gets smarter, marketing directors get wiser, and viewers start going elsewhere for their information binges or check-ins. That shift of advertising revenue probably doesn’t concern your business or group etc.

Those elswewheres, however, do. And for the time being, those elsewheres are social networks.

You probably arrived here from seeing this post on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ (hey, some do). “Social” traffic on this blog and many of the client sites we manage has proven to be “stickier” than traffic coming straight from a Google search, unless the search was for a highly targeted keyword (say “visually-driven information-rich explainers”).

However, reaching people on social networks and getting their attention is not as easy as it was just four or five years ago. That’s obvious if you have tried to put up a Facebook post on your company’s page and waited for the highly qualified traffic to come rolling in without any further effort (hint: it won’t).

Vox gets this as do many of the news / destination sites in their genre of web writing. Companies and groups successfully leveraging (to use another buzz term) social media networks for traffic, engagement, or leads are also aware of the challenge.

To be honest, the ability to tap into social networks is only going to get more difficult and … bizarre in the coming years. Again, Vox etc understand that their their websites are transitioning into “dumb pipes.” It’s the same thing we all want from our cable companies or internet providers… don’t fancy up the service, just give us fast access to the web. We’ll find all the entertainment we need without Comcast throwing in a package deal.

Except websites are dealing with content and information, rather than bandwidth, for their flow outward. Why does Vox etc care about having their “explainers” going out to Snapchat? Because that’s where we’re increasingly going to find the news and content and opinion that we want to have when we want to have it. I’d venture to bet that’s traffic coming in from mobile Safari on iPhones isn’t as stimulating to their bottom line as the traffic coming in from social sites.

Social networks aren’t just about pictures of your friends’ babies or cat pictures anymore. Something like 35% of Americans viewed Facebook as their main news source last year and 8% viewed Twitter as the same. That’s only increasing:

How do social media users discover news? Facebook is an important source of website referrals for many news outlets, but the users who arrive via Facebook spend far less time and consume far fewer pages than those who arrive directly. The same is true of users arriving by search. Our analysis of comScore data found visitors who go to a news media website directly spend roughly three times as long as those who wind up there through search or Facebook, and they view roughly five times as many pages per month. This higher level of engagement from direct visitors is evident whether a site’s traffic is driven by search or social sharing and it has big implications for news organizations who are experimenting with digital subscriptions while endeavoring to build a loyal audience.

Interestingly, we’re running into a unique situation in that social networks as we know them are morphing into something else just as news, content sites, and companies are figuring out how to use them for traffic back to their own sites.

In the last year, we’ve seen the rise of Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News, Google Now, Snapchat Discover etc. “News” is blending in with editorial content and the method of delivery based on a person’s preferences is where the money is going to flow.

If you haven’t already, check out Nuzzel and you’ll see why.

That’s because our social preferences and our media consumption preferences are coalescing in this third generation of the web. “Going to” Facebook to check our newsfeed will seem as antiquated as picking up a newspaper from a newsstand to check the day’s news. However, once newspapers started being delivered to our homes, we started viewing the news differently. The same thing is happening here with social. The news / content /info we want (and the algorithms think we need based on our bank balance, location, heart rate, travel speed, or upcoming schedule) is going to be coming to us, via messengers and notifications on our mobile devices.

Messengers are the next wave that is quickly coming to the US (already happened in much of the world outside North America just as texting, video chat etc took a while for Americans to catch on). These initiatives by Google, Facebook, Apple, Snapchat etc are a very real signal that they want to be the distributor of the content that we’ll inevitably be receiving via Facebook’s Messenger or WeChat or Whatsapp or whatever we all network shift to for our social spaces in the next 3 or so years.

What does that mean to your small business selling widgets or your nonprofit?

Everything if you’re doing any marketing on the web in 2015.

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