Ben Jones – The Now of Digital Storytelling: How to cut through in radically new times 

In the time it will take me to introduce my this guest – 2400 hrs of video will be uploaded to YouTube. Today alone – 5 billion videos will be watched – which – if you do the maths – should equate to 5 billion opportunities to interrupt and capture the attention of those eyeballs right? 

Wrong. More like 5 billion opportunities to get lost, unseen and be drowned out in one of the noisiest rooms on earth. 

So, in a world where we now have the ability to pause live TV, fast forward adverts, pay for ‘interruption free’ viewing and tune out billions of dollars of carefully crafted attempts to steal our attention. Or – in the world of my next guest – simply press ‘SKIP’ on the bottom right hand corner of the screen after 5 seconds.

The question becomes – how do you make sure the stories you tell are UnSkippable?

That was the question I asked my next guest the first time we met – nearly two years ago in the middle of a Boston blizzard. His response – and the data he was able to provide from having LITERALLY studied those 5 billion daily hours of Youtube viewing. Answered more questions for me about online storytelling than any conversation since. Hence – why he’s back today.

My next guest is Ben Jones – Creative Director at Google and Head of Unskippable Labs. A team within Google that started the day Ben decided to put his own credit card on the line – brave man – to try and figure out exactly what makes a Youtube story or specifically advertisement – so compelling that it’s unskippable.

In that conversation we broke down the Netflix Effect – and how it continues to defy the rules of attention (clue: if human attention spans are really at their lowest point – 8 seconds at last check – then why are we binge watching more TV series than ever before?), we talked about ideal story lengths, production values and the incredible results of how long we are literally willing to watch a video of a brick wall. I’m not joking – as it turns out – and Bens credit card bill will attest – the answer is a ridiculously long period of time. 

If you’re business is in any way dependant on trading attention, storytelling, or any form or content marketing – definitely go back in the archives and check it out.

In today’s conversation – we go even deeper into the wilderness. Diving into the what is – and what is to come in the world of online storytelling – including topics such as:

  • The bottom line traits that ALL unskippable stories all have in common
  • How data can – and increasingly will – change the way we tell stories. Including machine learning and why it’s not time for Creative Directors to retire just yet. Good news or bad news – depending on how you look at it.
  • The emergence of intent signals, what they are and and how we can use them to get more sophisticated about the stories we tell, to who and when
  • How and when to pull the lever of customising content – to avoid wasting time and money
  • Whether our ability to make good decisions when it comes to content – actually impairs the more data we have access to
  • The number one metric to double down on when it comes to amplifying what works
  • And obviously – what Ben sees coming on the horizon for digital storytelling

I always love having people back on the show – it’s an opportunity to jump back in and explore the extra 10% of the iceberg we rarely have time to touch. In Ben’s case, and with 250 UnSkippable experiments and counting up his sleeve – it’s an iceberg of knowledge that just keeps on growing.

So sit back, stretch out, stride through, sip on – I could literally keep going here – and enjoy my reunion with the man at the forefront of the future of storytelling. Ben Jones.

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