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The unstoppable rise of Stories

Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but visual stories must be worth more by some mega-factor, judging by the success of Snapchat’s Stories feature and Instagram’s copycatted Stories equivalent, as well as the relentless pace and determination with which Facebook is rolling out “Stories” in all its properties (Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories, WhatsApp Status, and its recently announced Messenger Day).

So what are Stories? Stories are akin to slideshows, consisting of video clips, photos, text, animations, or various graphics, which can be shared with selected friends or family and which automatically disappear after 24 hours.

According to Facebook’s VP of messaging, David MarcusStories have become a social media format in their own right, similar to how newsfeeds became a must-have format on social media networks.

Let’s take a closer look at the main Stories features and what contributes to their success:

Stories are semi-ephemeral

Stories combine multiple content types

Stories are at the epicenter of how today’s consumer share their lives – through visual messaging

Stories are shared a la carte with friends or family

What if you’re not a social network? 

As Stories are becoming a must-have format just like the Feed, it’s good to think through whether or how you could adopt the Story format in your own apps or services. Sooner or later your users will simply expect to be able to share their visual creations this way.

It might be necessary to modify the Story format for your company’s purposes, for instance by making it more permanent than the Stories offered by social networks, or by implementing features that smartly deal with undesired content types, such as animations or video that can’t be printed – if printing is what your service is about. (Tinkering with a successful formula is always tricky, so this would require a fair amount of testing).

I also recommend keeping a close eye on any API announcements from social networks that would allow third-party developers to tap into the social networks’ Stories in some manner. For now, Stories appear to be rather closed, but who knows – under competitive pressure, this might very well change in the future.

More to come 

We’re clearly just at the beginning of Stories as an exciting visual expression and sharing format, and I believe we’ll see a range of innovative approaches percolate that will expand on today’s Stories concept. Expect to hear first-hand about these at Mobile Photo Connect, October 24-25, in San Francisco!


A few more things… 

Apple. Fresh from the press: Apple just announced its foray into the social video space with its Clips app, which offers many Story-like features, except that its video trailers do not disappear after 24 hours. Interesting tidbit: while Instagram has moved away from square as the default photo/video format, Clips uses square as its capture screen format.

Instagram. Another shift from ephemeral to permanent: You can now save your Instagram Live video streams to your camera roll for later viewing.

Google. Google announced the open source release of a new JPEG encoder, called Guetzli. Google claims its algorithm creates high-quality JPEG images with “file sizes 35% smaller than currently available methods.” The latter is contested by commercial compression technology provider Beamr, last year’s Mobile Photo Connect Best Business Potential Award winner: in Beamr’s tests Guetzli generated larger files than Beamr’s JPEGmini technology, used more memory, and most pointedly, was much, much slower – compressing a 12 MB image took 15-20 minutes with Guetzli, compared to 1 second with JPEGmini. Still, there might be more in the pipeline at Google, whether through further optimizations of Guezli or through innovative approaches to image compression that leverage the company’s vast machine learning resources (for instance, a few months ago Google announced RAISR, a technology for upsampling low res images while minimizing any quality losses).

Human Eyes Technology. The 8-camera, 4-microphone, stereoscopic 360 Vuzecamera is now shipping. And all of that for $799. For more about Vuze, see our The User-Generated VR Revolution study.

Photo by GuySie

Author: Hans Hartman

Hans Hartman is president of Suite 48 Analytics, the leading research and analysis firm for the mobile photography market and organizer of Mobile Visual 1st, a yearly industry conference about mobile photography.

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