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It Begins and Ends With a Great Story: The Art of Storytelling in Online Publishing

When you tell a story, you create a connection; it’s as simple as that. Since the beginning of time, humans have communicated by telling stories. And now, in the digital age, storytelling has become more prevalent, lucrative, and essential than ever before. In our online world, creating a good story is an art that can help sell products and services – whether your product is an online magazine, a blog, or a YouTube channel.

When you browse through your social feed, do you ever feel a strong urge to stop and focus on one particular piece of content? You might find yourself entering this whole other world right there with the phone in your hand. Then you realize that you’ve just spent five, ten, or fifteen minutes engrossed in some story you never expected to stumble upon in the first place. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s the magic of storytelling. It pulls you in. At least a good one does.

The Optimal Goal of Storytelling

The optimal goal? Get readers to like your content so much that they subscribe to your content and become regular visitors to your site. The way to get there? Through great storytelling. A good story stays with you and, like a drug, makes you want more. And there’s a science to prove it, too.

Any good story will make the reader/viewer feel something; it will leave a mark, whether it’s laughter, empathy, or even anger. At the end of the day, we consume content with our heads, but it’s our hearts that keep us connected. And that’s a good thing. This is why storytelling plays such an important role in digital publishing. The whole idea is to get users to consume your product, and hopefully more than just once.

Clicking on the Link Is Only Part of the Battle

Reeling people in is only part of the battle. First things first: you need to attract people to your story (through awesome ad copy or native searches – another blog topic on its own). The next fundamental goal is to keep people engaged. If your company relies on long-form content as its business model, then it’s essential to provide an enjoyable, engaging, and emotion-inducing story. The longer a reader is on the page, the more revenue is accumulated. And the more readers like what they read, the more likely they are to share the piece.

So, how do you do achieve this? Well, here are a few tips about how to create the best stories:

Photo by The Good Brigade / Getty Images

How to Deliver a Great Story

Most online publishers deliver real stories about real people, as opposed to fiction. And when it comes to real people, it can get complicated.

Keep a Flowing Narrative:

No one wants to read a true crime story or a human-interest piece that doesn’t flow and is everywhere. That said, it’s essential to keep a flow through a narrative. We tend to seek and follow narratives more than scattered or random facts. So, it typically helps to write a story in chronological order.

Set the Tone:

It’s important to use language that feels right for the story. Viral content appeals to the masses, so it’s best to use a style of writing that most people can relate to. You don’t need to use fancy words to write well; there’s nothing wrong with using simple words and simple sentences. It just means the writing is easier to read, easier to understand, and most importantly, easier to relate to.

Answer the “Why?” Question:

Storytelling 101 will teach you that every story needs key questions answered – and that’s “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how.” But it’s the “why” that’s the real game-changer. The other questions are relatively easy to answer and include in the story, but it’s why people connect. It’s about feeling emotions, after all. So, if your story is about an unsolved murder, a couple who won the lottery and went bankrupt, or a dog that saved his human’s life – you need to find the “why” to make the story complete.

Photo by MundusImages / Getty Images

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Readers

Long-form articles are such a lucrative part of the industry that they’ve been dubbed “scrollytelling.” An image and text-heavy article can be cumbersome to read on a smartphone, so it’s transformed into a smoother, more linear viewing experience.

Photos and other visuals are an absolute must when it comes to online content, especially in long-form articles. A story can be as engaging as possible, but without the right images to complement the text, the story is incomplete and doesn’t hold the reader’s attention nearly as well. Let me just take the liberty to say; a picture is worth a thousand readers.

The Endgame

Digital publishers are all about attracting users to sites to get them to “buy” their products. It doesn’t really matter if the product is an article or a video; it’s the story within that counts. A great story can draw readers in, and if your brand knows how to deliver the goods, I promise you – they’ll keep coming back.