Books and Brands Turn Instagram Into the Newest Publishing Platform


Ballantine's Instagram magazine

There’s a story within a story being told on Instagram, and like much of the content on the visual platform, it is very appealing. Welcome to the newest disruption in storytelling.

On June 25, Jason Sperling will release his book, Look at Me When I’m Talking to You, entirely on Instagram. The book will be the first-ever Instagram release, one page uploaded per day for 160 days, and offers Instagrammers something new on a platform they love.

On the heels of journalist David Hepworth’s recent article, “It’s not creativity the publishing business needs—it’s ingenuity,” Sperling gets full credit for taking his own advice. The book examines the “new rules for getting attention in an attention scarce world, inspiring care amidst consumer apathy, and fostering loyalty from an increasingly discerning and departing audience.”

Brands are dipping their toes into the pool as well. GMC is taking Instagram’s rich PanoGram format for a test-drive. And just last week, the Ballantine’s whisky brand launched W on its Instagram feed, the first-ever “Instazine” that can be read by scrolling down an Instagram feed, where users can click on an image to access each issue.

Instagram W Magazine

Commissioned by the Pernod Ricard-owned brand, London-based studio Work Club created W by using Instagram’s grid presentation to create a small magazine cover. It allows users to either skim articles or do a deeper dive by tapping on individual images.

Instagram isn’t necessarily perfect for this type of content. When read in a feed—the way most people use the platform—or more rarely in a web browser, the user experience is interrupted and may feel out of context. Still, it doesn’t need to be perfect to work.

Instagram Book

These are fascinating forays into uncharted waters. But for content strategy and storytelling to resonate with consumers, a brand must demonstrate consistency and utility, in addition to delivering the right story to an audience willing to listen.

Which begs the question: Are Sperling’s book and Ballantine’s W just experimental one-offs? Or are they innovative examples heralding a new approach to content?

Only time will tell. There is ample potential for this format to be effective, but will brands have the stomach to put in the time, effort and dollars to figure out the contours of this new landscape?

At a time when Instagram has begun courting brands through more traditional methods, such as carousel ads, companies may decide their marketing resources are better spent elsewhere.

But that would be a shame. As efficient as the carousel ads may be, we’re hoping for more inventiveness from brands—not less.

Padmini Mangunta is a content strategist for Interbrand New York. Follow her on Twitter: @dizzyelephant


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