I’ve been talking about the benefits of long-form storytelling for a while. And lately, I’ve noticed a bunch of new examples crop up.
“Gradually, and then suddenly,” as Hemingway once wrote. That’s long-form storytelling and longer content pieces. Right now.
We marketers are always experimenting with new content formats and new vehicles. And lately, the trend is moving toward longer pieces and more fleshed-out, substantive ideas.
I’m resisting using the word “quality” here—it’s so subjective, and ultimately so meaningless without context—but you know me well enough to know that I’m thinking it.
Why is the trend toward long-form storytelling happening now?
There are two key reasons.
But first, here are a few examples I’ve seen just these past few weeks. Many of these projects have been developed in partnership with established publishers, too. (But that’s a story for another day.)
- Paper magazine and cannabis company MedMen are launching Ember, a quarterly print publication to cover the intersection of marijuana and pop culture. (Side note: Why oh why didn’t they call it In the Weeds?)
- Luxury luggage maker Tumi created a short film starring actor Alexander Skarsgard. In it, the actor travels around the world on a single degree of latitude towing a suitcase from the brand’s new line called (you guessed it…) Latitude.
- McDonald’s released a new three-part podcast at WeWantTheSauce.com that gives a Serial-like treatment to the mystery: “How did a shortage of dipping sauce cause customers to riot at McD’s?”
- The mattress company Casper last November shuttered its Van Winkles microsite (I’m resisting writing that it “put it to sleep”). It plans to publish a quarterly print magazine called Woolly with help from the team at the humor site McSweeney’s.
- Jason Miller and the team at LinkedIn Marketing is publishing a global print magazine for business-to-business marketers, Sophisticated Marketer Quarterly.
- Akamai worked with Demand Spring to produce The Most Awesome Game, a 14-minute, behind-the-scenes look at how online games are conceived, developed, and delivered.
- Publishers Bustle, Curbed, GQ, and The Infatuation are treating Instagram stories like episodic TV, programming and releasing stories over “seasons” vs. one-off Instagram videos.
Why the trend?
1. The days of one-off, standalone, so-called snackable content are over.
One-and-done content ideas are kaput, too.
Today, when something is packaged up in a bite-sized, snackable format, it’s probably marketing a bigger content asset or it’s tied to a bigger story.
And as your tour director in today’s blog post, I promise to not use the word “snackable” again. #takethepledge
Writers who write “big” blog posts are twice as likely to report strong results, according to a recent study from Orbit Media.
“Careful with this data,” Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina points out. “This doesn’t say that long posts are always better. But it does show that greater investment correlates with higher ROI.”
“More bloggers are going deep into the subject matter, answering questions from every angle, and making a sincere effort at producing the best page for the topic.”
You know what word I love paired with “marketers”? “Sincere.”
We don’t hear those two words paired enough. We need to.
2. Content done right is hard work.
And we marketers have a lot of noise to contend with.
I’ve been talking a lot recently about the need to approach business and marketing with a mindset of As Slow As Possible (ASAP). I view the trend toward long-form and substantive content as another example of the shift toward slow marketing and slow content marketing.
Slow content marketing is slowly conceived, well-executed, substantive work that tells a memorable story. It sustains both marketers and our audiences long-term. It doesn’t just stuff our bellies with pounds of fluff.
Bottom line: We seek meaning and crave connection. That means marketing needs to slow down and think about substance and context. We also need to focus on the meaning baked into the experience we are giving our audiences.
Short and snackable is out. (Oops. Sorry. I used that word again.)
Good news: Slow and substantive isn’t just in. It’s here to stay.
Side note: At Content Marketing World this September 5-7, I’ll be joining Dorie Clark on a panel led by Mitch Joel in which we talk about the trend toward the marketing’s “long tale.” (Long tale! A riff on “longtail.” Get it? That’s all Mitch. He slays.)