Your Turn To Talk

From the head of Zues Jones comes some thought provoking material regarding the web as a less than perfect storytelling medium.

There’s no doubt that online advertising is generally pretty dire, but then the Web isn’t really a great medium for delivering traditional advertising. But even more importantly it’s absolutely the wrong medium if all you want to do is tell stories.
The web isn’t just a communications medium, it is a medium for interacting with people. Storytelling is inherently one-way, in fact, the main use for stories in the history of humans has been to teach. Using the Web for teaching and one-way dissemination of information are a waste its talents.

As a writer who is attracted to the web like a moth to flame, I find this insightful and useful. In this format, I think of myself as a writer first and a conversationalist second. And that may be limiting what AdPulp can become, so I need to pause and consider what it all means.
Last week, Rob Walker puzzled what is so special about a service that gets people “talking” in micro-bursts.

I just can’t get worked up about Twitter either way. Why do people have such extreme reactions to it?

According to the theory above, people come to the web to talk, not read, view or listen passively. People want to engage by creating stories with others, as they would in real life. When one tells a story in real life, other people add to it in real time (which can be annoying to the storyteller). Twitter mirrors this, whereas a blog is more traditional in its storytelling structure. On a blog a writer offers something, then comments come in, but it’s not a conversation just like email is not a conversation. IM and Twitter are conversations; thus, the excitement around them.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I see the point. But I disagree. Sorta. Kinda. According to Forrester, the vast majority of people are very happy to treat the Web as they do the newspaper. They are happy to consume the “story” without adding or commenting or conversing. Clearly the ability to have a “conversation” is a killer app for the Web. But it’s a mistake to assume that everyone wants to be part of said conversation. Loads and loads just like to absorb.

  2. AC in da house (on a holiday, no less)!
    I hear you and I agree. Yet, I also read somewhere how much text people typically absorb from a site and it’s not a good number.
    According to Use It, on the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.
    Of course, storytelling is also accomplished in pictures, moving and still. And in audio. So, as a writer and editor, it’s incumbent upon me to not rely too heavily on text.
    In an interactive medium like this the story isn’t neatly contained, it moves around a lot. It might start in a text-based blog post, but it alters form as it’s picked up by another site, and then commented upon in various places.
    Linear storytelling is breaking down. What takes it’s place is the answer we’re seeking and it’s only going to come through countless trials, some more successful than others.

  3. I question anyone who tries to tell the rest of us what the Web is or isn’t. As ac pointed out, people do go to the Web to “read.” It might not be the exact same kind of reading, but perhaps because it’s possible to do more on the Web. That is, you can “read” and listen to music, watch videos, email, im etc.—all at the same time. I’ve read people tend to scan versus read on the Web. So what? I’ll bet people are starting to scan their newspapers too. Actually, we always have. It’s why journalists write the most important stuff at the top of the story and work toward the least important—because people rarely read the entire story. But that’s beside the overall point. The Web is a place for advertising. And it’s not. It’s a place for branding. And it’s not. It’s a place for engaging consumers. And it’s not. Just as TV can be used to present brand messages, promotional messages, direct response messages, etc., so too the Web. Yes, the Web also offers the ability to do things that TV can’t. And vice versa. But it’s narrow-minded to try to tell people that the Web is or isn’t something specific. It’s a medium with many possibilities, including many not yet realized.