The year of the Instagram Story

“Is making news content appealing in a Story format a challenge? Absolutely. But the window of opportunity is short, as Story-watching habits are being cemented and loyalties developed right now.”

There is one clear digital behavior that has seen explosive growth in 2017 and will leave other platforms in the dust in 2018 — the Instagram Story.

Even as a local media outlet, Charlotte Agenda’s Stories are being viewed by 10-, 15-, 20,000 Charlotteans at a time, and still we’re just scratching the surface.

As new features are quietly unrolled by Instagram and its Facebook masterminds, our team is left to play strategic catchup. We haven’t started experimenting with Story Highlights. The fact that users can now follow hashtags (ours, #cltagenda, has been included in 25,000-plus posts) means we have the opportunity to build a community even beyond our direct followership.

And, because we are a business, we’re simultaneously experimenting with how to deliver messages there on behalf of our 25 sponsors. They need to be messages that we’re proud of, that are useful and relevant, and that are labeled transparently but in a way that isn’t jarring.

We even find ourselves preparing traditional story boards as we produce our Instagram Stories, re-examining yet again how to best make use of short(er)-form narrative.

Video clips are integrated with stills, one-liners of text are sprinkled with emoji — the end product feels casual, conversational, and often downright silly. But if we as Instagram users are spending an average of 24 to 32 minutes watching Stories, then we as producers have to treat them as what they are — the new TV.

Is making news content appealing in a Story format a challenge? Absolutely. But the window of opportunity is short, as Story-watching habits are being cemented and loyalties developed right now. It will be well worth the time for any media organization to create content worthy of the platform’s new, dominant role in American life.

Cristina Wilson is the chief operating officer of Charlotte Agenda.

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