Web stories are coming, with a lot of opportunities

The Publishers Playbook Newsletter

Over the last couple of months I’ve been watching with great interest what Google is doing—when it comes to the development of WordPress plugins—to improve the lives of digital publishers using the most popular CMS on the planet. Last week, during the BigWP event that’s put on by WordPress VIP and Automattic. Paul Bakaus from Google gave an updated demo of what Google is calling now, the Story Editor for WordPress.

So what’s the difference between a post / article and a story?

When you publish content on your site, it’s traditionally a text-heavy artefact that is easily readable on desktop, mobile, tablet, AMP, Apple News, whatever it is. 

The WordPress Story Editor led by Google is here to solve the problem of longer form, media rich, story telling, and to solve it well on mobile.

Yes, a story looks and feels like those things that sit up top on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, everything.

Until now, most publishers I’ve spoken to or worked directly with have often deferred to a specialty tool like Shorthand or Vev to build these much nicer, longer form, media rich storytelling experiences. 

While these can look amazing, there are a few problems. They don’t integrate natively. Even though it can look seamless, monetising or tracking analytics can be tricky. Secondly, they can often live on separate systems or subdomains which is not good for you, or the internet. 

Here is the demo of what Google aims to ship to WordPress over the next month or two. An incredibly powerful story builder, that is mobile first.

I think this has massive potential to shape how publishing businesses think about building more evergreen content that is better for SEO; that allows for a great mobile first story telling approach; and can be monetised by insertion of display ads, or by selling co-branded/produced stories (think native content).

One of the challenges I see is the resourcing to do this work. It’s unfair to ask a journalist to compile visually stunning stories that take time to be crafted and published. This isn’t usually their field of expertise so isn’t an efficient use of resources. 

This is fairly new tech, currently built and functioning in AMP, but the more general Web Stories plugin isn’t far away.If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are a few examples that cover a few different content types. 

Protecting the Antarctic, CNN
Space photos of the week, Wired
The best battle royale games on PCPCGamesN

So while the plugin isn’t available for WordPress just yet, it’s something you should start thinking about. What existing or new content strategy can you employ for native & bespoke advertising solutions and evergreen content that will help build SEO?

If you want to be notified by Google, you can register here.

Ben May

Ben is Managing Director of The Code Company. He is passionate about working with publishers on clever and innovative ways to solve complex problems. He works with The Code Company team on all projects, bringing his perspective and problem solving skills to deliver great outcomes.