The Public Relations BlogCreativityStorytelling & WritingSlow Storytelling is Making a Comeback

Slow Storytelling is Making a Comeback

Long-form storytelling returns.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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The power of slow storytelling is mak­ing a comeback.

Must everything be short­er and faster on the internet?

It seems as if slow storytelling is mak­ing a comeback. Longer tele­vi­sion shows, longer games, longer YouTube videos, longer tweets, longer blog art­icles — longer everything.

Why?

Here we go:

The Paradigm of Fast Storytelling

The nar­rat­ive speed has accel­er­ated. News cycles are flash­ing by. Updates and tweets are blaz­ing by. Social media is turn­ing into show business.

Twenty-four-sev­en news cycles and bite-sized advert­ising mas­quer­ad­ing as enter­tain­ment are com­ing at us like a furi­ous swarm of moths cloud­ing the sky. 

Yes, some are con­cerned. Social media pess­im­ists are fore­bod­ing the decline of civil­isa­tion due to our short­er atten­tion spans and noti­fic­a­tion addictions. 

Everything must be short:

  • Online videos must be thumb-stoppers.
  • Texts must be fast and snappy.
  • Tweets are short by design.
  • News must fit into a push notification.
  • Programmatic ads must scream.

We’re all in a col­lect­ive hurry and can’t be bothered with too much con­text. “It’s just the way it is now,” I think.

Click, click.

The Counter-Reaction

I grew up on the island of Alnö with about 900 fel­low dwell­ers. I moved away, got my stra­tegic com­mu­nic­a­tion and lin­guist­ic degrees, and ended up in Stockholm, the cap­it­al of Sweden. 

In Stockholm, I remem­ber being astoun­ded by the impa­tience of the city slick­ers; they sighed as they missed their sub­way ride — even though the next one was in just a few minutes. 

On Alnö, buses came by once every hour on weekdays. 

A city-life dec­ade later, hav­ing lived in Stockholm, London, and New York, I find myself being immersed in this Pavlovian con­di­tion­ing.

A five-second break today? No prob­lem. That’s enough to check my social feeds, cal­en­dar, and inbox, read a few head­lines and check dir­ec­tions on Google Maps.

In short: We’ve all picked up the pace.
Now, we’re long over­due for a counter-reaction.

Mental Bandwidth and Narratives

Suppose Dunbar’s num­ber dic­tates the optim­al num­ber of per­son­al rela­tion­ships in a group. Why can’t we assume that there’s also a cog­nit­ive lim­it to the num­ber of nar­rat­ives we can stay inves­ted in? 1Silfwer, J. (2023, June 7). 150 — Dunbar’s Number. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​1​5​0​-​d​u​n​b​a​r​s​-​n​u​m​b​er/

There’s com­pre­hens­ive sci­entif­ic sup­port for the idea that we fil­ter all incom­ing inputs. We dis­card these inputs or assign them to a few more prom­in­ent storylines that we’re already inves­ted in. 2Silfwer, J. (2023, November 30). Cognitive Dissonance: Mental Harmony Above All Else. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​c​o​g​n​i​t​i​v​e​-​d​i​s​s​o​n​a​n​ce/.

The digit­al con­tent explo­sion of avail­able inform­a­tion might neg­at­ively affect everything from atten­tion spans to cog­nit­ive over­load­ing. Still, the Industrial Revolution also brought its fair share of less-than-for­tu­nate out­comes. 3Silfwer, J. (2023, March 20). The AI Content Explosion. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​a​i​-​c​o​n​t​e​n​t​-​e​x​p​l​o​s​i​on/

Remember, our men­tal band­width has remained unchanged for at least 200,000 years. 4If any­thing, our brains are shrink­ing. Over the past 20,000 years, the aver­age volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic cen­ti­metres to 1,350 ccs, los­ing a chunk the size of a … Continue read­ing

Television Series and Superhero Universes

Lately, the charm of watch­ing a full-length movie has been rap­idly declin­ing; the story arc in a typ­ic­al two-hour block­buster is too short for me; there’s not enough time to get to know and under­stand the char­ac­ters of the movie, and the sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief suf­fers from being force­fully paced.

This is, in my case, thanks to Netflix. 5Silfwer, J. (2013, February 2). House Of Cards is Changing the Streaming Game. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​h​o​u​s​e​-​o​f​-​c​a​r​ds/

I don’t watch Netflix for its vari­ety of movies; I binge on their tele­vi­sion shows (albeit that “tele­vi­sion” sounds old-fash­ioned). An epis­ode is argu­ably much short­er than a full-length movie, but the storytelling spans sea­sons instead of minutes. 

ScreenRant lists 15 reas­ons why tele­vi­sion shows are super­i­or to movies:

  • More char­ac­ter growth.
  • Not restric­ted to one theme.
  • New char­ac­ters.
  • Bite-sized snip­pets.
  • Unpredictability.
  • Longer runtime.
  • Room to adapt and change.
  • Infinite pos­sib­il­it­ies.
  • Less rat­ing restrictions.
  • For a spe­cif­ic audi­ence.
  • More time to digest.
  • Room for more com­plex stories.
  • An addict­ive hobby or pastime.
  • We’re still in the golden age.
  • More con­trol from creators.

I’ve spent many hours fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of “The Walking Dead” and its main prot­ag­on­ist, Rick Grimes. As a view­er, I’ve been inves­ted in Rick’s life’s ups and downs (mostly downs) for a long time, but I still have no idea wheth­er he will make it.

There’s no deny­ing the lit­er­ary qual­ity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic saga, The Lord of the Rings. Still, when it comes to sil­ver screen adapt­a­tions, it’s tough for LOTR dir­ect­or Peter Jackson to com­pete with the rich­ness of lore in shows like Game of Thrones, where the storytelling spans sea­son after season.

And it seems like movie­makers are catch­ing on, too. 

See how Marvel’s string­ing typ­ic­al block­buster-length movies togeth­er to cre­ate longer arcs for their char­ac­ters and add more depth to their cine­mat­ic Marvel uni­verse.

Games as Long-Form Storytelling

Watching Let’s Play walk­throughs on YouTube is my guilty pleas­ure (or obsession?). 

I’ve been at the edge of my seat through games like “The Last of Us,” “Detroit Become Human,” and “Uncharted.” I’ve dis­covered new worlds through games like “God of War,” “Far Cry,” and “Assassin’s Creed.”

In-game storytelling has seen tre­mend­ous devel­op­ment over the last couple of years. Watching social media nat­ur­als play their way through a good nar­rat­ive is immers­ive and cap­tiv­at­ing, even if you don’t play these games your­self. 6Silfwer, J. (2010, April). Social Media Naturals. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​s​o​c​i​a​l​-​m​e​d​i​a​-​n​a​t​u​r​a​ls/

More giant story-driv­en games might take a skilled play­er up to 40 hours of act­ive game­play to get through, espe­cially if they are into explor­ing and side missions. 

For instance, the anti­cip­ated title Red Dead Redemption 2 deliv­ers an impress­ive 60+ hour story cam­paign:

Read also: DayZ for Days

Long-Form Content in Search Engines

Longer forms have oth­er advant­ages, too. 

If you’re into digit­al mar­ket­ing or com­mu­nic­a­tions, you’ve prob­ably thought about how to rank on the first pages of Google’s SERP (search engine res­ults page) for your keywords. 

A study by SerpIQ sug­gests that 2,450 words are the “sweet spot” for rank­ing 1 – 10 on Google: 7A study by Moz indic­ates that long-form blog posts tend to do bet­ter in search rank­ings and social media.

Average Content Length of Top 10 Results - SERP - Slow Storytelling
The aver­age con­tent length of the top 10 SERP res­ults (serpIQ).

Also, accord­ing to Hubspot, you get more back­links as well:

Backlinks vs Word Count - Slow Storytelling
Backlinks vs word count (Hubspot).

(And for those who don’t write art­icles that often, 2,000 words are quite a decent length: you’ve barely read 900 words of this article!)

I’m not sug­gest­ing that longer is always bet­ter in every way. However, we might have under­es­tim­ated our basic human need for depth and con­text — espe­cially in this fast-paced, digit­al-first landscape.

Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

PR Resource: Free Storytelling PR Course

Free Storytelling PR Course - Doctor Spin - Public Relations Blog
Free storytelling PR course.
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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Silfwer, J. (2023, June 7). 150 — Dunbar’s Number. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​1​5​0​-​d​u​n​b​a​r​s​-​n​u​m​b​er/
2 Silfwer, J. (2023, November 30). Cognitive Dissonance: Mental Harmony Above All Else. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​c​o​g​n​i​t​i​v​e​-​d​i​s​s​o​n​a​n​ce/
3 Silfwer, J. (2023, March 20). The AI Content Explosion. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​a​i​-​c​o​n​t​e​n​t​-​e​x​p​l​o​s​i​on/
4 If any­thing, our brains are shrink­ing. Over the past 20,000 years, the aver­age volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic cen­ti­metres to 1,350 ccs, los­ing a chunk the size of a ten­nis ball.
5 Silfwer, J. (2013, February 2). House Of Cards is Changing the Streaming Game. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​h​o​u​s​e​-​o​f​-​c​a​r​ds/
6 Silfwer, J. (2010, April). Social Media Naturals. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​s​o​c​i​a​l​-​m​e​d​i​a​-​n​a​t​u​r​a​ls/
7 A study by Moz indic­ates that long-form blog posts tend to do bet­ter in search rank­ings and social media.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has

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