With the losing battle for the viewers’ attention spans, marketers and journalists alike have to keep making content that’s ever-more immersive and engaging. In 2012, New York Times seemed to hit the nail on the head with a piece of interactive journalism that swept the readers and critics off their feet.
“Snow Fall” didn’t just win the Pulitzer prize — it became a case study of what interactive content should look and feel like for the next decade. It set the tone for all interactive content that was yet to come.
We’ve seen the rise of such content in recent years — from quizzes and games to augmented reality apps. Users love it and prefer it to long-form articles that they know they’ll never finish reading. It’s an opportunity to give a unique voice to your brand, a task that’s only gotten more difficult over the years.
It only makes sense to get on board with interactive content while it still hasn’t oversaturated the web. Content marketers are looking to bank on it, and for good reason. Keep reading to find out why.
Benefits for publishers
Giving your brand a unique voice has always been a challenge, but now it’s almost impossible if you’re a small publisher looking to make it in the content landscape. If you acknowledge that you need the help of interactive content to succeed, you’re more likely to reach the audience that’s tired of being advertised to.
This is where interactive content comes in. It gets to all the users who are done being informed about some new product or a service day in, day out. Millions of brands are trying to do that very same thing: tell the story of how their brand is the “unique” one and get their message across to prospective customers.
Interactive content is different in that it doesn’t just tell the brand’s story to anyone who’ll listen. It makes the user a part of that story. It involves the audience in a way that regular blogs almost never do.
That makes it obviously beneficial for publishers. Without interactive content, you’re just another voice vying for the attention of millions by doing the same thing everybody else is doing. When you add that interactive aspect to every editorial you put out and every piece of branded content you write, you begin to stand out.
When that happens, you reap the benefits that every other brand hoped to reap — increased brand awareness, more engagement, and greater user retention. All of this culminates in unparalleled data-driven lead generation and ultimately, more paying customers.
However, what publishers are going to benefit most from in the long run is the loyalty of their satisfied customers. We’re talking about the kind of loyalty you can’t hope to achieve without interactive content that reinforces and supports your customers throughout their journeys.
Key formats in 2021
Interactive content comes in many different formats, some new and exciting, others fairly overused by now. For 2021, it only makes sense to focus on interactive content with more novelty to it. That isn’t saying that previous formats are outdated or no longer good. Quizzes and polls still have the capacity to immerse and personalize, but they’re far from fresh.
Scrollytelling (a portmanteau of “scroll” and “storytelling”) employs visual-centric elements to tell a story. The visuals can be anything really — high-quality images, infographics, videos, and even presentations.
All of the visual elements are accompanied by the actual story and raw information that come together to craft a journey like no other. Scrolling is the crucial aspect here — it gives users the sense of being in control and directing the story as they please. By scrolling, you’re letting the story progress and unravel, while also being able to go back any time you want to revisit a specific section of the article.
Commercial departments use scrollytelling to enhance long-read editorials, enrich branded content, and help brands convey their message in a more interactive manner. It’s also an excellent way to introduce native adverts, which have to match the feel and the function of the editorial environment.
Ukrainian online media Zaborona uses scrollytelling to visualize their hard-hitting investigative reporting. It’s an excellent example of visuals and the story coming together to paint the complete picture while also making the user a part of the story.
Scrollytelling is perhaps one of the most promising interactive content formats; few other strategies involve the user as much or give them the reason to keep exploring.
Different types of businesses can have varying degrees of success with augmented reality, but whether you can put it to good use or not, it’s an enticing interactive content format.
Superimposing CGI on your physical worldview has far more applications than what was initially expected. We’ve all witnessed the hype around video games that employ augmented reality, and there’s no content more interactive than games.
However, when businesses started coming up with innovative and groundbreaking uses for augmented reality, the phrase “interactive content” got a whole new meaning.
Probably the best example to this day is IKEA Place. Using AR, you can visualize a piece of furniture in your own home before you even consider buying it. Real estate companies have been using it to give potential buyers a 360-degree view of the house.
A few more good cases
AdWeek’s sponsored feature shows the power of Pinterest, pastel colors, and short videos to tell the story of Mara Lecocq.
BBC’s iReporter lets you roleplay as a journalist working on a breaking story. It’s as immersive as content gets.
Solve is an interactive podcast that takes you on an audio adventure. Your role is to act as a criminal investigator and work on true crime stories.
Aotearoa is an excellent example of how data-driven visualizations help get the message across. It is a series of charts that show the changes in New Zealand's economy and demography over time. It’s fairly dry stuff that you probably wouldn’t be interested in otherwise, had it not been interactive.
An interactive timeline of the first six months of the pandemic is not just a highly educational piece of work, but also an excellent sample of interactive content.
Interactive content cannot be an afterthought. If you want to execute it properly, you need to get both the developers and the designers in one room during the ideation process.
However, when you do carry it out, you’ll be providing your audience with a content format like no other. Interactive content provides publishers with a competitive edge and the means to stand out from the mass of bland, uninspiring content websites.