Some Instagram Stories Thrive from an Extended Shelf Life

Classic novels become social media posts

The New York Public Library (NYPL) is using an ephemeral social media feature to turn people on to reading.

Since August, NYPL has turned three classic stories—“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” “The Raven” and “The Yellow Wallpaper”—into Instagram Stories. It worked with ad agency Mother New York on the project.

About two-thirds of the 94,000 people who saw NYPL's Alice in Wonderland Instagram story viewed it more than 24 hours after it posted, according to Allison Palmer, NYPL’s director of digital engagement. This stat is interesting because stories were originally designed to expire after 24 hours. A year ago, Instagram removed its 24-hour upload limit on Stories.

Instagram copied Stories from its competitor Snapchat. The product has since become crucial to Instagram’s growing ad business. eMarketer forecasts that Instagram US ad revenues will double from $6.1 billion in 2018 to $12.4 billion in 2020. Palmer spoke to eMarketer about how NYPL gets readers to continually engage with an Instagram feature that was originally intended for expiring content.

What inspired you to turn classic books into social media posts?

We’re always trying to do fun things with reading on all of our social media accounts. This was really up our alley to do a campaign that is solely about reading.

Why did you use Instagram Stories for this project?

What we thought was interesting about stories is the content is typically really fleeting, temporary, something that you just see for a couple of seconds and then you move on. This really flips that and turns it into something that you are reading for longer. We built a way for you to hold down the pages so that you're actually able to read all of the pages, we have a tutorial on how to do that.

How do you get people to read the stories when they’re more than a day old?

We’re able to use Highlights, which is right under the bio on Instagram, to direct people to the story. We’re also able to directly link to the story. So if you’re in a blog post, webpage, email or some other platform, we can link directly to that story. The [books used in the project] are timeless and aren’t going anywhere, so people can keep experiencing it.

Snapchat, Facebook and WhatsApp also have stories features. Do you plan to repurpose your Instagram novels for other platforms?

Not at this point.