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Is ‘17776’ the future of storytelling?

July 30, 2017


Summer can be a slow time for football fans, but perhaps the perfect opportunity to wow them with a nice story.

Meet “17776.”

SB Nation writer Jon Bois put together this terrific piece of writing and digital media for a 25-part serial. That’s right, a serial, a practice not seen since the ancient ages of newspapering and Charles Dickens (unless we count comic strips).

Netflix releases entire seasons of shows at once. Many news sites publish their longform stories and multi-part series at one time. It seems almost audacious in 2017 to release such a story over an 11-day period in July.

Certainly, we’re all familiar with the magazine-style format of long stories on the Web: images that span the width of the screen; dynamic auto-play videos and images; breakout charts and quotes; clutter-free design with a single center wide column of text. The chapters of “17776” invent their own format: easy to take in, yet not quite the usual scroll-and-read wall of words.

The surprise novella has been a hit, scoring 700,000 unique visitors and 4 million page views in under 2 weeks. Who would’ve thought a work of fiction would garner such a huge following on a site devoted to sports news and commentary?

Without giving too much away, “17776” is a sci-fi take on our world almost 16,000 years in the future. Blend sentient machines, a love of spectacle and equal parts humor and pathos, and present in a combination of text dialogue, videos and gifs.

I encourage everyone to check it out, even those who don’t care for football. It shows that with a little imagination, a great story can be told in great ways. We have barely begun to tap the multimedia capability of our sites.

Reading “17776” not only gives us an insight into humanity’s possible future, but also our gift for sharing ideas creatively in the present.

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