If “The medium is the message,” what digital media will give us better messaging? Shorthand is an excellent place to start.

Marshall McLuhan, a St. Louis native, coined this phrase in his book, Understanding Media. Pondering what this means given contemporary reading habits — queue infinite scroll, feeds, clickbait, and fake news — can be rather sobering. Shorthand, meanwhile, has everything you need to create deeper and more meaningful digital experiences.

The News Feed Versus Engagement

Today, if you produce content, you’re basically producing content for Facebook and Google. As such, the medium is a feed.

One of the reasons why the feed is such an addictive medium is its relation to mobile: Facebook is especially well-suited to perusal on a smartphone or tablet, where scrolling through your news feed becomes infinite and tactile.

There are inherent problems with this, however. First off, traditional content types like blog posts are now locked in a battle for attention with all other articles in a given news feed. And, because readers believe that the grass is always greener below the fold — and thus are tempted to scroll endlessly through their feeds — desperate outlets create popcorn content and clickbait in an effort to attract the attention of readers who are constantly being pulled in multiple directions.

Secondly, because a feed is unending, continuous, and lacks narrative arc, there is no catharsis: after engaging with this medium, the user walks away unsatisfied.

Lowest common denominator content leads to shallow interactions and weak data — both of which are bad for marketing. Being unsatisfied is bad for the user. So, how do we fix the broken fire hydrant of popcorn content?

Enter: Shorthand, Swipe Right

To address this problem, we need a medium that is:

  1. Mobile-first
  2. Immersive
  3. Multimedia and digital typesetting-enabled, out of the box

Shorthand has built this medium. You build narratives in a simple, “what you see is what you get” editor, you don’t have to code, and you can still do all your metadata work.

What’s more, the stories you can build with Shorthand are beautiful, crisp, responsive, and full-width. They’re the article version of, ‘I don’t even want to think about how much it cost to design this website’s UI’.

UX is another speciality — engaging with a digital story built with Shorthand is intuitive, but the experience is rich, with parallax scrolling, multiple formats, and many other visually appealing features.

See this example from the BBC.

shorthand screenshot two

The chapter indicator reminds you that you are in an actual narrative with a beginning, middle and end, while clever image transitions make dynamic maps pop off the page, updating as you scroll.

Finally, Shorthand has what you might call ‘digital typesetting’ baked in. That is, you can use layout, juxtaposition, embedded video, and other visual elements to open up a whole new avenue for expressing ideas.

shorthand screenshot one

What Does this Mean?

Shorthand has gone a long way towards solving the problems presented by the feed, creating a mobile, immersive platform that encourages creators to embrace complexity and length — and move away from the lowest common denominator. As an added bonus, it’s as easy to use as your favorite blog post editor.

Indeed, the medium is the message. Something of the medium always rubs off on the reader, whatever the actual message. As such, we had better use a medium commensurate with the messages we want to send.

Interested in learning more? We’ll be discussing visual storytelling, messaging, and UX design at our event in New York City on February 22, “UX as a Storyteller in Mission-Driven Organizations.” You can sign up here.

Author Oliver Cox

Having originally joined the company as a writer in 2013, Oliver works with L&T's clients and prospects to build and manage their storytelling strategies. Oliver is a graduate of the University of Liverpool and is a prolific musician and author.

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