Building content experiences with Fabl isn't a marketing fairy tale

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher October 9, 2019
Once upon a time there was a content marketing platform called Fabl...did they all live happily ever after?

book is a content experience platform that enables marketers to take their content and create highly visual, immersive experiences - without the need for a developer or an agency. Its website claims that visitors spend an average page read time of 3:16 minutes on Fabl-created content compared to the 0:36 second average read time across the Internet.

It’s a big claim and made me want to understand why that might be true. So I reached out to Taj Forer, Fabl Co-founder and CEO to learn more about the platform. We talked about more than Fabl though, kicking off the conversation discussing attention spans and the importance of narrative, both of which drive are underlying beliefs behind Fabl.

Are attention spans declining or just evolving?

Forer has spoken about the decline of attention spans, but other research is showing that they aren’t exactly declining, they are simply evolving. Everyone brings up bingeing on Netflix as an example of how attention isn’t in decline, but there is a difference between B2B content and a good Netflix series. Or is there?

The co-founder says that the fact that we can span tons of time bingeing Netflix is indicative of our ability to maintain attention on something. But here’s the catch - it’s task-dependent:

The reality is that attention spans are evolving and the majority of the research that I've done, and that others from my team have supplied, effectively orient attention around task dependency. So it's not to say that attention spans are declining, in fact, there are cases to be made and some data that supports that attention spans may, in fact, be on the incline, not the decline. But the attention reality is that the task-dependent nature of attention is where the most compelling conversations and research from my perspective, is rooted.

Fore argues that we are inundated with more interruptions and more tasks that need to be completed right away, and the number of communication channels and devices and technology has increased that need to multi-task. He said we’ve become reactionary, both personally and professionally, focusing on completing a task. Netflix is a perfect example, he suggests:

Like, when we switch on Netflix, you know, we have one task at hand, and that's to be entertained. And Netflix rises to the occasion, as far as holding attention, by building personalization into the experience, by automatically rolling one episode in the next, by allowing you to skip the introductory credits for the show that you're bingeing on, by getting to the end of the documentary and recommending other documentaries algorithmically based on your content consumption behaviors and the data that they've connected to your user profile.

The importance of narrative/story

What it sounds like then, is that when you binge Netflix, you're getting into a story and you're getting involved in a story. It seems like a lot of getting and keeping attention revolves around this idea of creating a story around what you're talking about, as opposed to just putting content out. Forer has stated research that said that people retain 20% more information when it’s communicated as a narrative/story. He talks about the use of storytelling in our history and how it was used to help people remember important things, like where to get clean water, or where and when to plant crops - information that was critical for survival:

Many anthropologists argue that we are hard-wired to engage with content that is delivered through narrative, through the act of storytelling because that is intrinsic to our nature and our evolution as a species.

With B2B storytelling, Forer talks about the basic building blocks like character, place or setting, conflict, and resolution. It doesn’t necessarily flow in that order, but all the elements are present:

A successful packaging of content within that framework ensures that narrative is at play, that those storytelling receptors, so to speak, are being activated, and the likelihood of retention of information imbued in that story increases.

If storytelling is so important, why do brands have such a hard time evolving their marketing approach to use it effectively? There are so many consultants and storytelling “experts” on LinkedIn who offer to help brands, but the challenges are very real. Forer points to a lack of empathy at the brand level:

When we, as a representative of a brand, think about embodying not just the persona that's on a report, but embodying the experience of one of the customers or prospective customers, we can reverse engineer the approach to messaging that we would want to hear or that we would likely find to be effective or compelling, or differentiated, or entertaining, you know, this idea of delight and surprise your audience, right comes to mind. But for some reason, I think particularly within the context of large organizations, and legacy organizations, most notably, there is this inability to empathize with those that we are ultimately serving.

This lack of empathy is why brands reach out to consultants and external experts to inject a different perspective and help put the customer first.

What Fabl brings to the marketing tech mix

For Forer, storytelling represents the synthesis of art and science, of data and creativity. That’s where Fabl qua content marketing platform comes into play. He pitches: 

Our platform automates designers, creative agencies and developers, as relates to taking content and getting it out the door in a format that is beautiful, that is immersive, and that ultimately grabs and holds attention, which are the precursors to increased conversion.

Assuming you have your content strategy and content creation house in order, Fabl helps you take that content and deliver faster without sacrificing the experience. It supports the creation of landing pages, ebooks, product collateral, infographics, and more, he adds: 

But if those things are there [content strategy, etc.], focusing on the experience, and ensuring that marketers themselves have a single-source solution, a single toolset that is easy to use, that makes sense that they can drive on their own, without perpetually going back to the web team, and marketing operations, and third party agencies and design teams and branding teams, they can take their messages, they can lay them out into formats that are on brand, that incorporate different types of media, video, audio, you know, galleries of images, slideshows, background animations, etc., and ship them very quickly.”

Marketers are becoming media publishers and are some of the biggest media publishers out there, Forer said, but they don’t have the right tools. For fifteen years, Forer and the other founders behind Fabl ran a media publishing organization that focused on visual storytelling based media: 

We have taken all of that experience and all of this software that we built over many, many years in our media publishing business, and re-architected it for third party use, therefore, enabling this transformation, which is well underway, regarding marketers becoming media publishers, so now they have the right tool for the job that they're already doing.”

Fabl is pitched as a SaaS solution that you can use on its own, including using it as a content management solution for your entire website. But the primary focus for Fabl is to provide a media publishing engine that plugs into a CMS and empowers marketers to create content experiences that don’t depend on the CMS itself. Forer sees Fabl connecting to a specific part of the website that the marketer is responsible for, like a Resources section, creating a destination site that typically drives the most engagement for a brand.

Not only does Fabl provide the full content experience, but it also integrates with Uberflip to provide some of the underlying content that Uberflip content hubs point to, like a whitepaper, or a blog post. What’s different with Fabl, is that instead of going from a visually engaging Uberflip content hub to a PDF version of a whitepaper, or a boring blog experience, you leverage Fabl to “create really immersive, sort of experiential, highly visual, long-form content pages, or multi-page executions, that can then be connected to the Uber flip account and streamed in.”

Once you do this, you get more information on content consumption and content interaction behaviors that influence your content experience going forward. Forer explains it this way: Uberflip is Netflix and Fabl is the movies Netflix shows (the good ones). In many cases, Fabl is also Netflix itself.

Fabl connects to marketing automation solutions and can provide personalized content experiences using profile information. It’s also multilingual, supporting a Unicode font system and page migration capability that allows you to create a page or campaign in multiple languages.

Measuring the performance of the content experience

Fabl focuses on “metrics that matter.” That means, Forer says that it looks at what happens once a user gets to a page of content. It provides an analytics dashboard that drills down into page-level metrics and tells you which parts of the page are driving the most engagement:

So you can take a page that's built with Fabl, and you can click on content, and you can break it into its parts. And you can see all 16 images and all four videos; you can look at quotations, you can look at which of those media assets have been shared across which social channels, you can look at call to action buttons, you can look at the hover rate or the intent rate versus the click-through rate.

In so doing, we can understand how the use of media, how the organization of the components that comprise a page, lead to the deeper scroll depth, a higher conversion rate on the CTA button, and the increased share rate across the media assets that are made shareable in that page.

You can look at this data by geography, language spoken, mobile vs. desktop, as well as which mobile platform. You also integrate Fabl’s data with analytics solutions and CRM solutions to bring your content experience data into the bigger picture.

Fabl looks and sounds like a solution built for the enterprise market, but it also supports smaller businesses or groups within enterprises, he concludes: 

We've built accessible price points and packages for smaller businesses, for individual product marketing groups, for example, that might, once they adopt, socialize the solution and lead to an enterprise account.

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