Using Instagram Stories for news content

Instagram has two ways of publishing content: its timeline, and through its Stories feature.

Stories were introduced in August last year and unlike timeline pictures and video, are only available to view for up to 24 hours after posting. It’s very similar to Snapchat, and designed so “you don’t have to worry about overposting”.

More recently, Stories have developed to include live video – similar to Facebook’s Facebook Live. Users are alerted to when somebody they follow is live, and once the broadcast is over, the video is deleted forever.

I’ve touched on timeline posting in a previous blog post about data visualisations, but what are news organisations doing about Stories?

Sky News uploaded these six photos to Stories to note alleged executions by Kim Jong-Un of North Korea. It comes after news of the death of his half-brother, suggested to also be killed by spies.

The design used confirms that their Story is a series of photos, but if the same level of consistency was used seamlessly into pictures for other topics, it would become very confusing very quickly. So design matters not from news organisation to another, but instead from topic to topic.

Guardian US used Instagram Stories to share updates from The Westminster Dog Show. In a series of seven photos, they give context to the event and offer a call-to-action to direct viewers to a more in-depth article on their website. The ability to create links for Stories is currently only available for verified users, and can be used for promotions or linking to additional content, as is the case here.

These four photos from BBC Sport work independently of each other, introducing news stories published on the BBC Sport website. This makes the Story become a collection of headlines, with each photo giving the opportunity to swipe up and read more.

The differences between these Stories and what makes them work are unique to the context in which they are posted.

What I find, is the use of consistent design for a series of photos, and call-to-actions where possible, create understanding and build a uniformed experience. As a viewer, I know what to expect from the Story, and the ease of access to more information through a call-to-action makes me more inclined to read more.