NewsCred returned to our roots last night, kicking off a brand new partnership with General Assembly back where we took our first startup steps six years ago – with a panel on Design, Technology and the Future of Marketing. Over 100 people made it to GA’s NYC campus, while another 250 tuned in online for the live stream.
Our VP of Engineering Sumit Guha served as moderator while Tumblr’s Content and Community Strategist Annie Werner, Visually’s CEO and co-founder Stewart Langille, and The Atlantic’s Executive Creative Director of Integrated Marketing Emersson Barillas discussed their opinions on the evolving industry.
L-R: Guha, Werner, Langille, and Barillas. Photos by Laura June Kirsch
Guha set the tone for the talk with a few opening remarks, emphasizing the fact that we’re living in an age in which the “expectation of constant communication is always there.” That may sound like a lot to live up to, but for industry leaders like our speakers, it’s just become something of a second nature. The question then is, how are design and technology influencing the evolution of that constant communication, engagement and interaction with audiences? Also known as, marketing.
The main way, according to Langille, is that the ever-advancing fields of design and tech make for a “richer story that gets to the audience much faster,” resulting in a much higher impact for readers and viewers. Specific effects vary platform to platform, of course; Tumblr, for example, uses its resources to shape the way brands create content.
“We’re making users feel empowered,” says Werner. “They have a stake in what we’re creating.”
Rich, relevant and varied content is great and all, but as Guha points out, from an audience perspective, the never-ending flow of information can begin to be more than a bit overwhelming. From a creative standpoint, Barillas is convinced that tech and design lead to better scanability. “It seems passive,” he says. “But in scanning content we’re deciding what’s of value to us, and that’s where it really gets interesting.”
It’s these kinds of changes that directly correspond with the emergence of things like microcontent. “Bitesize information that directs you to a website or bigger picture has become immensely popular,” attests Langille, and it’s a great way to test what works best across different platforms and what appeals to different audiences.
One thing that definitely works? Visuals. Guha reminded yesterday’s audience that articles with images get 94 percent more views than those without. Seriously, when was the last time you bothered to read something that didn’t have at least one or two compelling images drawing you in? I’m not sure either, but I do know that those pictures are pretty powerful – and that they have the potential to become even more so. Werner, a self-professed lover of GIFs, believes that “the more interactive visuals can get, the better.”
But what comes next? One of the best things about technology is how quickly it’s able to adapt, but is it realistic to think that we can keep up the pace? Designer and recent London transplant Natalia Baker posed a particularly interesting question in the follow-up: how do we continue evolving microcontent like 15-second videos when you just can’t get any quicker – or shorter?
The consensus seems to be that long-form isn’t going anywhere, or at least not yet. Barillas is used to lots of long content at The Atlantic, which he says is interspersed more and more with photo and video, while Langille reminds us of how much people like to binge on things like TV. “That shows that long-form content is still alive,” he says. “But that people use it differently.”
The trick is thinking of how to chop it up and redistribute in a way that doesn’t bore or overwhelm. Werner said in closing that although Tumblr’s a gladiator when it comes to short content, they’re actually always thinking about how to get people to do more, not less. After all, “it’s hard to have a deep connection with something that’s one second long.” We couldn’t agree more.
By Anastasia Dyakovskaya, NewsCred Contributor