Why Mobile Based Visual Storytelling is so Important

Mobile Visual Storytelling

A 2016 study conducted by Pew Research Center showed that unique visitors on mobile devices outpaced unique visitors on desktops for 99 out of 110 news outlets studied.1

What’s more, nearly 15 percent of internet users, or 40.7 million individuals, will use only a mobile device to use the internet in 2017 – an increase of 11.2 percent.2

As audiences continue to turn to mobile for news, digital publishers are responding accordingly.

“The industry’s just shrunk to fit the phone,” said Lewis D’Vorkin, chief product officer at Forbes. “Mobile audiences in my mind want a different kind of experience.”3

One potential way to describe that modern mobile experience: visual. In addition to text, graphic elements are proving effective in the current media landscape.

Learn three other ways publishers are successfully reaching and attracting mobile users.

Mobile is quickly ushering in a new era for visual storytelling, and digital publishers are shifting their mobile strategy accordingly – to include more visual formats. This shift’s benefits are plenty, and top publications are quickly catching on.

Mobile Transforms Visual
“Mobile has just a massive impact and we’ve had to readdress how we design, think mobile-first and how people consume news and visual news on mobile,” Amanda Farnsworth, visual editor at the BBC, explained.4

Currently, 60 percent of traffic to BBC News is mobile, and although Farnsworth and her team have been experimenting with visual formats since 2013, they have had to evolve their mobile approach to meet the rise of mobile news consumption.5

In addition to the BBC, The Washington Post has acknowledged visual storytelling as a requirement for mobile newsrooms.

Recently, Design Director for the Post, Greg Manifold, spoke with public relations firm Grayling about the art of visual storytelling.

“I think we’re inspired by the opportunity to work with great stories, photographs and graphics in order to better inform readers,” says Manifold.6

At The Washington Post, design and editorial teams work in tandem, seeking out bold visuals while collaborating with reporters, editors, photographers and graphic artists.

Integrating visual content into mobile editorial gives digital publishers the opportunity to connect with their audiences through an interactive and engaging experience.

Heather Chaplin, director of the Journalism and Design program at the New School in New York City notes, “Digital technology and increased competition have led journalists to employ more creative techniques to capture viewers’ attention, including multimedia storytelling, stylized visuals, and interactive techniques to create a more personal, emotional experience.”7

Digital publishers who create interactive visual experiences on mobile see better engagement from their users, as well as longer session durations.

Mobile Visual Engagement

For example, to reshape desktop news for mobile, Forbes tested new visual formats on 26 articles, accounting for 60,000 users.8

The new visual formats included interactive lists, data visualizations, and highly visual images.9

After introducing the new visual formats, time spent on the new mobile experience was at least twice that of the current one.10

Additionally, for the new interactive lists, 35 percent of users averaged 10 minutes on the new version versus 4 minutes on the old mobile version.11

Furthermore, for the new visual articles, users averaged two minutes on the new version versus one minute on the old mobile one, with some articles showing a 10-times increase in time spent.12

“Not every story has to be text,” said D’Vorkin who confirmed that Forbes will continue to publish visual mobile articles.13

Similarly, the BBC recently released its annual plan for 2017-2018 which outlines goals that prioritize mobile visual content.

“Over the coming year our focus will be on developing an increasingly personalized, mobile-first proposition featuring short-form journalism and visual storytelling (using video, graphics and data), alongside offering a broader range of live event coverage and participatory experiences.14

Indeed, it’s clear that users respond positively to visual content, and publishers are acting and responding in kind.

Content Personalization

1. Goujard, Clothilde. “Mobile is driving the transformation of visual journalism.” Medium. Global Editors Network, 19 Jan. 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.
2. “US Digital Users: The eMarketer Forecast for 2017.” EMarketer. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 July 2017. February 17, 2017
3. “How Forbes got readers to double the time spent per post on mobile.” Digiday. N.p., 15 Sept. 2016. Web. 19 July 2017.
4. Goujard, Clothilde. “Mobile is driving the transformation of visual journalism.” Medium. Global Editors Network, 19 Jan. 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.
6. Dunton, Alan. “Insights.” Grayling : How The Washington Post Approaches Visual Storytelling: A Q&A. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2017.
7. Blanding, Michael . “Journalism and Art: Complementary and Collaborative Storytelling.” Nieman Storyboard Journalism and Art Complementary and Collaborative Storytelling Comments. N.p., 28 Mar. 2016. Web. 01 Aug. 2017.
8. “How Forbes got readers to double the time spent per post on mobile.” Digiday. N.p., 15 Sept. 2016. Web. 19 July 2017.
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14. Twitter, Freddy Mayhew. “BBC prioritising live video in News app to take on Facebook and Youtube as it looks to win over younger audience.” Press Gazette. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.