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article imageQ&A: Brands are leveraging interactive and story-driven content Special

By Tim Sandle     Aug 16, 2019 in Business
Trends suggest more publishers, brands, and agencies are leveraging interactive and story-driven content to increase engagement and revenue. Expert Moti Cohen explains why interactive content is changing the way consumers engage with online content
One example of a company providing this service is Apester, an interactive storytelling platform. Such platforms offer the tools needed to create, distribute, and monetize interactive content in a way that engages consumers.
Moti Cohen Founder & CEO at Apester spoke to Digital Journal about how this works in practice. Cohen describes Apester as the first “Story” platform as a service.
Digital Journal: How has online content changed over the past decade?
Moti Cohen: Content has changed dramatically in every possible way across behaviors, format and frequency of consumption. We’re no longer letting editors tell us what we should read on our daily edition. We stumble upon content on social networks, or we find it after searching for such. Statistically speaking, we have higher chances to consume the content on-the-go through a vertical format.
Accordingly, publishers and brands had to extensively change their content production: they had to appeal to their audience online, be mobile friendly, and take into consideration distribution mechanisms such as newsletters, social networks and search engines.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp dictated a new order of content presentation. The introduction of the feed by Facebook, and the introduction of Story by Snapchat - later copied by others - changed the way text, images and video are served. These new formats have surpassed traditional content consumption, thus encouraging content creators to adapt.
DJ: What are consumers expecting?
Cohen: Consumers had always expected to be entertained, informed, and educated. Nothing new here. It’s how you package and deliver the content that has changed their expectations. They now prefer to experience a multi-layered, visual, and interactive content on-the-go and on-demand.
I will also add that since they are used to consuming much of their content on social networks, they expect brands and publishers to provide a familiar experience. I’m sure it will help them enjoy some of the skyrocketing user retention social networks are enjoying.
DJ: How publishers and marketers can best enhance the experience of visiting a site?
Cohen: Bring a personalized experience, create a conversation around your content, and provide a sense of familiarity - all of these are playing a strong role in user retention.
Many brands are mistaken by resizing their experience to fit mobile devices. As we’re in a mobile-first era, they must rethink it and reshape their look and feel to adapt to mobile users. For instance, use formats that are best in mobile narrative such as the Story format, a format that was born by mobile apps for mobile users and gained enormous popularity.
The Story format - today’s most growing media player - is now making its way into mainstream content sites, allowing publishers and brands to enrich their content with this super-format that can tell independent narratives while presenting branded, compelling interactions in the experience familiarized by the users.
DJ: How can articles and videos be better optimized?
Cohen: Reformatting and repackaging content into digestible, visual, interactive and personalized story nuggets - or “beats” - works. But on top of that I'll add: make sure things are as genuine and "real" - perhaps even "raw" - as possible. When going to the movies, audiences expect a big visual-effects spectacle. But on their phones, they better appreciate genuinity.
Another one is: make sure your interactive content is contextual and relates to the article. That significantly increases user’s time spent on site and retention. For instance, a poll can ask readers for their opinion about a candidate when placed in an article focusing on the Democratic presidential debates. A social network like Story can complement an article by presenting a gallery of images, or display a timeline of events. Implementing a contextual, interactive, and visually appealing ingredient within the narrative amplifies the whole content experience.
We optimize videos by adding an interactivity layer. For instance, when summarizing a game, a publisher can asks for the audience thoughts on a player’s move or a referee’s decision, or their trivia knowledge about the club or the season. Brands are often implementing interactivity at the end of a tutorial video to ask customers about feedback.
DJ: What can be done to ensure that customers return?
Cohen: You can use tricks to attract customers - sometimes it's completely legitimate, and always self-explanatory. But it won't sustain. Or use a longer-term strategy: develop a clear and consistent voice that communicates with an audience on multiple levels and creates a conversation around your content: from the product experience to the content - and evolve it over time. Conversation lets them stay longer on your site, 70% on average, and read more articles.
DJ: How is interactive content changing the way consumers engage with content?
Cohen: Interactive content changes contact consumption in so many ways. From lean-back experience, interactive turns content into a lean forward behavior, that totally changes your attention span and how your brain stores the information gathered
Besides asking the audience about their opinions or preferences in the context of an article, we see publishers and brands educating users on the topic with quick questions and detailed answers through a quiz, or getting their feedback on watching a video through an interactive video.
DJ: How can companies seek to better monetize the customer visit?
Cohen: Marketers should use interactive content across all their channels in a consistent way, creating unified experience to convert readers into customers. They can do so through enriching their blogs and social channels using an interactive call-to-action and experience.
Publishers and news organizations can use interactive content in a multi layer array that includes driving subscriptions, deriving audience data, advertising, and e-commerce.
There is an intuitive psychological explanation behind it: users like to state their opinions or to disclose their preferences - when asked in the right context. They are deeply involved in the subject while reading an article about it, and as a consequence, they have a higher chance to answer a poll or a quiz about it. In times of banner blindness, this is a great mix of editorial and commercial content.
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