Building upon its “family-friendly” picture book storytelling platform, Storybird has launched a new longform format, targeted at writers looking to both serialize their work, and connect with readers already using the service.
The longform stories created by Storybird users can be lengthy novels serialized into multiple chapters, or a short story viewed on a single page. It is now available throughout Storybird, but still in beta for classrooms, with full integration for teachers expected by summer.
"Longform stories are a powerful tool for both amateur and professional writers to engage readers through serialization," said Storybird head of editorial Molly O'Neill. "You can release chapters weekly, arc over several months to build engagement, and turn readers into fans and followers."
According to Mark Ury, who founded Storybird in 2010, the membership base of nearly four million members on the platform can be divided into three core users: educators (the platform is used in 300,000 schools worldwide), families, and, the “largest bulge,” tween and teen girls, who make up roughly 80% of the membership.
After the picture book platform came out of open beta last spring, Ury set out to craft just what role Storybird would play in the landscape of digital storytelling. He found himself especially inspired by the Scholastic business model. “It’s very simple and therefore very elegant,” said Ury. “It’s a two-sided instrument—they sell educational tools that give them inroads into schools and homes, and on the other end they build and develop writers they can bring into that brand.”
“[I started] to think about a very similar model for the 21st century,” added Ury. “One that didn’t live with 19th-century publishing constraints.”
Next, he set out to find an “architect” to bridge the digital divide. In August, he hired O’Neill away from HarperCollins, where she helped launch the career of Veronica Roth and her bestselling Divergent series.
“[Our users] wanted to be telling longer format stories,” said O’Neill. She is “eager to match" authors of stories for children, tweens, and young teens with Storybird's global membership base, while at the same time, focus on developing ways for professional authors and illustrators to create and promote their work on the platform.
In addition to viewing their creations online, Storybird users are able to purchase physical copies of books developed on the platform. Storybird also offers membership programs for educators, and, in the future, plans to add art and merchandise sales on the e-commerce side, and expand membership options to consumers.
On top of the new product launch, the startup also announced the formation of Storybird Creative Partners, a slate of authors and illustrators commissioned to work with the company, and those who rise up through the platform. According to Ury, the purpose of the program, to take place seasonally, is to “incubate, analyze, and understand how we market and commercialize authors and their stories.” Storybird will identify organic users it believes are "poised for success" through internal data and metrics, and reader engagement. The authors and artists, and their books, will be promoted and featured in many ways across the site, via the forthcoming Storybird iOS app, and through traditional and social media outlets.
“The future of the writer-artist-reader relationship is collaborative and communal,” said O’Neill. “We expect that many of our platform’s native stars will emerge from among the early adopters of this new format."