Visual, immersive, interactive, mobile-friendly, mixed-media: it´s been years since publishers of any genre, newsmedia and brands started creating new types of visually-driven narratives.
We saw lots of custom developments; we experienced huge issues with our existing CMS; we struggled to find compatibility with a growing number of screens. Many providers and tools (Ceros, Storyform, Pageflow, Storymap, Infogr.am, Shorthand, to name a few of them) went to the market, promising to create highly engaging, rich narratives for the web. In the meantime, a new wave of data-driven storytelling made the thing even more complicated.
Then came the social media, with their smarter approach based on simplicity, strict mobile-first, platform-centric strategy, and one good idea: the STORY.
WHAT ARE AMP STORIES?
The AMP STORY format was initially launched with eight publishers including Vox Media, CNN, Mashable, and the Washington Post begin 2018. After it got traction for these brands, it extended to all AMP developers.
Late 2019, based on the learnings collected from the working group of publishers, Google developed new features, more supportive of publishers´ needs: better linking to long-form reading options, better ways to display the storied on desktop (with a full-screen view), better links to other pieces of content and better integration of advertising.
AMP stories is a visual storytelling format for the open web. The stories allow readers to immerse in a tappable, full-screen content. The Google AMP story format comes with preset, flexible layout templates, standardised UI controls, and components for sharing and adding follow-up content.
AMP stories are a part of the open web and can be easily shared and embedded across websites and apps without being limited to a single ecosystem.
Stories have become a de-facto standard for visual storytelling.
The social stories of Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook made the whole thing called immersive storytelling come of age, and become a de-facto standard.
While you are reading this post, you know, like me, that the article/blog post format belongs to the past: a Gen-X thing, still an excellent way to absorb information, but limiting, and not any more a first-touchpoint for people looking for news and stories.
A bold and pragmatic move by Google: take the social stories to the open web.
The reasoning behind Google decision to launch and push the AMP stories across the open web is at the same time very pragmatic and very bold:
It acknowledges the fact that the social STORIES are a standard de facto. It does not make sense to invent another format. Stories work.
It knows that publishers struggled to create formats and make them work cross-device, wasting lots of time for adaptions and struggling to monetise such custom formats.
It urges publishers to look at the reality of news consumption on the web: it´s mobile-first. Period. The whole AMP framework is strictly based on the evidence that search and access to information are driven by our smartphones, not from our desktops. Period. Too many publishers are still desktop-centric. It takes a giant to drive the overall change in perspective.
What do AMP stories look like? No surprise, they look like Snapchat stories, just a little sleeker.
Based on the upon considerations, we can say AMP stories are not another experiment. They are meant to set a new standard. They are not a fad. AMP stories are a legitimate story format and can be a powerful weapon to drive publishers into a mobile-first mindset finally.
Yet, if AMP stories will benefit publishers and content creators depends on how meaningful will they be used.
Reviewing dozens of stories created last years, I was disappointed: lots of photo galleries, not so different from the ones we used to publish ten years ago. Lots of text-heavy stories purely adapted from existing articles.
And minimal use of data, graph, well-done interactive charts: strange, since the marriage between data and interactive storytelling could be one of the most promising developments. There is a lot of work to be done, but publishers have to believe in it. And let their younger editors play with it with creative freedom.
The second issue is how to avoid stories to live alone, like orphan pages, just for the sake to be featured on the Google SERP page: how to bond them with the editorial context from which they originate (aka the old website) is still an open issue.
The third issue is the contradiction between the open nature of the format and the implementation of ads by Google as the (only?) optimal way to deliver native ads within the story.
Having said that, 2020 is all about completing the transition to a mobile-first content strategy for publishers and media makers, everywhere. Even the most reluctant, and the ones that do not enjoy the same size of resources dedicated to visual and data journalism by the NYT and the Washington Post, do not have excuses anymore to stay still.
The time is now for AMP stories and for accelerating the transition to the mobile-first web.
The time is now: the AMP ecosystem is growing, and the AMP story development framework has lowered the technical barriers for creators to the minimum.
The relationship with Google is what it is: a frenemy relationship. But we cannot ignore that with the AMP they are defining the road and the direction, and if AMP stories can help to accelerate the transition to the mobile-first-world, welcome! Sooner we will see brands embracing it. And new tools for small-to-midsize creators, with less need for tech skills, are rolling out. 2020: let´s make it mobile-first and full of good, engaging, intelligent stories.
Do not expect yet to find many of them yet: as of now, the best solution is to develop your own editor, fit to your CMS. For small to midsize creators, some tools are available as a beta, but they still need to pe perfectioned: Makestories.io, Unfold, Cutnut (prototype). A plugin for WordPress has been developed by the AMP working group: you find it here.