Although the medium for storytelling has evolved over time, specifically with emerging technology and the changing landscape of communication, the important components remain the same: humans find success in preserving and sharing information by expressing emotion through the telling of stories. While the way individuals take in stories has changed, especially in the online era, storytelling is remains something that’s been used for millenniums to build relationships, teach lessons, share culture and create meaningful connections between people.
In other words, and at risk of sounding cliche, storytelling has been around since the beginning of time and will remain important for humans through the ages.
When it comes to storytelling in the modern world, specifically online, it’s key to engage readers right from the start of your story in order to maintain their desire to continue reading. In Brian Clark’s “How to Read”, Clark explains the varying types of readers and how they consume written content. He explains that people don’t read well online, in fact they spend more of their time scanning for bits of information they might find interesting, rather than taking in an entire piece of writing from start to finish.
While Clark dives deep into elaborating on four key reading levels (Elementary, Inspectional, Analytical and Syntopical) the key takeaway from this piece is the importance of creating content that not only draws the reader in, but brings them beyond the Inspectional level where they simply skim the article but never quite reach a point where they can properly analyze, absorb and create an understanding of the topic at hand.
Because we know that consumers of online content tend to be scanners rather than analytical readers, it’s important that information be shared in a particular order where the important information comes first and then as the article goes on, additional but less crucial information is shared.
This technique, known as the Inverted Pyramid approach, ensures that even if the reader is simply scanning the first few lines of an article, they will see the most critical information and are more likely to stick around and read the rest of the content.
In the world of journalism, writers are provided the resounding advice to avoid burying the lead. With the most important information at the top, the writer can ensure they reach the greatest number of people with their messages. Even the most time-strapped reader is likely to read the first few lines of an article when the key information is easy to find.
While it’s fair to say that storytelling will always play an important role in our lives, it’s also fair to assume that we all continue to see a change in how we tell our stories. Whether it’s on social media, through blogs, or perhaps some new technology that doesn’t even exist yet – humans will continue to share information and build connections through the power of a well-told story.