While the existence of Upworthy and Buzzfeed have certainly made it harder for substantive news and information to reach our news streams, Facebook just made an announcement about a new mobile/sharing/storytelling platform- that is soon to be released: Paper.
Paper purports to be a storytelling platform, in the vein of Medium, an app that rises above the snippets of garbage that we’re constantly being bombarded with on Facebook and Twitter.
Yes, it’s not fair of me to judge it before it’s actually released, but history has proved a couple things about Facebook:
- Rule numero uno: Facebook is no Twitter. Twitter has a cache that Facebook just can’t reach. That’s why Evan Williams can do Medium, and it becomes a place of style and substance. Facebook is not elegant- at all. And folks don’t expect it to be. It’s become a utility.
- We’re not very interested in substance– in general- these days. Facebook has become the ultimate water cooler- a place of gossip, and sharing quick videos that will last under a minute. Twitter, is also getting noisier with so many hashtags, that reaching beyond a few people is getting more difficult. Holding people’s attention is part of a failure of social media- not a feature.
- We’re not interested in long content. I love storytelling. I think it’s absolutely the next step in our evolution beyond blogging and cat videos. But I don’t think that this is what we want from Facebook.
I understand what Facebook is trying to do; they’re trying to go against the trend. Late last year, they made a push to highlight high quality news content. That was their first step to try to improve the news stream. Now, they’re pushing for storytelling, and story sharing. CNN is saying this is more of a mobile strategy for Facebook, but it’s clear that Facebook is trying to win your eyes- for longer than a few blips.
I hope it works. I hope to God it works. But, I fear a couple of things. First, I worry that the “bite-sized” effect, is going to happen to storytelling. That’s not what I think Facebook is hoping for, but it could be the result. Now- we’ll be seeing pint sized stories, and lessening our attention (and desire) for longer form content. That’s knowledge versus higher order content.
I think that we are in a bit of a Golden Age of storytelling, what with Netflix, HBO, and other video platforms. However- I really wonder if storytelling can translate to the web. Medium seems like the best bet (at the moment). It’s clean. It’s pure. It’s not filled with ads (yet). I’ve even wrote a couple of story ideas for movies I’d like to see.
My other fear is that storytelling will be disposable- very much like the news is disposable on Facebook.
I don’t want to see Facebook take my story ideas and have them glossed over and tossed aside like people are tossing aside the news right now. I also don’t want our young minds to be introduce to disposable stories. I want them to know that there’s a place on the web- where storytelling can be uplifted, and can rise above the garbage.
There is the third issue: the “vanilla-fication” of the news that has been happening because of Upworthy.com, please don’t let this translate to storytelling. We have a Hallmark Channel and Lifetime for a reason. If we suddenly start being introduced to stories that will all “break our hearts” and we must read about “something nobody else wants to talk about,” than please, just turn off the Internet if that happens.
If our young writers think that their work can simply be tossed aside- won’t it be even that much harder to motivate them to write?
Photo Credit: Steve Harwood on Flickr