Top 3 Stories-First Publishers in an Article-First World

Steve Takizawa

Publishers are in a brave new world of storytelling, whether it’s the new era of Stories format (once pioneered by Snapchat) but now a mainstay across the social media landscape.

In that arena, some publishers stand out from the rest by being early adopters and also creative in how they adapt to the new media landscape, and we’ll be spotlighting some of them in a series on Stories-First Publishers. Today, we take a look at some creative output from ESPN, Fox Sports and the Financial Times. 

  1. ESPN 

Disney, the parent company of ESPN, knows a thing or two about storytelling and ESPN is definitely following in those footsteps. ESPN sees short-form stories and video stories as yet another vehicle to intrigue and entertain their digitally savvy sports fans. In addition to their presence on short video platforms like TikTok, they recently launched their very own native ESPN Stories medium on their web and mobile platforms. 


Launched in July of this year, ESPN Stories, aims to present a more authentic face of sports. In addition to the birds-eye view of stats and commentary, which we are used to on broadcast stations, the nature of mobile gives us a ringside view of how sports plays behind-the-scenes, locker-room conversations, post-game celebrations, and moments captured by fans that stir memes.  

But the key to all of the above is engagement, as ESPN’s head of digital content, Ryan Spoon, succinctly addressed here: 

“If we can showcase the amazing work the broader company is doing, I think that’s a significant win here that will result in more consumption, more time spent, more bandwidth.”  – Ryan Spoon, Senior Vice-President, Digital and Social Content, ESPN 

Given the heightened youth demographic in the sports arenas — both online and offline — it makes sense that ESPN takes these different mediums seriously. For starters, ESPN has one of the largest brand following on TikTok and other similar video platforms, leveraging an existing network of close to 11M followers, and even smaller outlets like Barstool Sports have an engaged audience of 2M followers on a short-video platform like TikTok. 

Much like its presence on podcast platforms, where Barstool overtook ESPN in October 2019 monthly views, burgeoning viewership is something that smaller media outlets need to take seriously. 

Pro Tip: Barstool Sports, repurposes some of their most successful published posts as podcasts as well as on TikTok. 

  1. Fox Sports:

Yet another behemoth, in the sports digital landscape, who’s taking the cutting-edge “Stories format” seriously is Fox Sports, who also launched the Stories format along with multiple innovation products earlier this year. 


Fox Sports’ Stories embed across mobile devices and desktop carries with it the distinct authenticity that this format carries with it, allowing you to experience the game from up-close. What’s even more impressive is the data-driven, 360 degree surround story that Fox can bring to their highest rated sports shows. 

“Modern sports fans are passionate, engaged and uncompromising. Our bold, distinctive products provide them a fresh way to experience the leagues, teams and players they love.” – David Katz, EVP and Head of Digital, FOX Sports 

  1. Financial Times

In the global media landscape, Financial Times stands out for their relentless experimentation with the creation and distribution of media properties. Just this past year alone, they innovated on different formats of media like Story Playbook, Profile Cards, etc. but they also launched (albeit briefly) the Snapchat style Stories format on their “myFT” mobile app.   

In addition to being an early adopter, myFT was an early success story, given how the format allowed for editors to surface the most interesting stories at a glance, instead of digging into the never ending feed. The best part was that the stories format served as a shortcut functionality that they feel the app lacked until then. 

In testing, people have consistently said it feels intuitive. One subscriber said they would ‘flick through’ the circles first before scanning the front page, while another said it should completely replace the current feed. – via Financial Times Medium Page

This is just our first step in surfacing the biggest innovators in the publishing world and the lessons they are learning from being early adopters of technology like Stories-First. If you’ve ideas and / or feedback, please tweet at us @fireworkhq, or find us on LinkedIn.

How Live Shopping Experience is Boosting Conversions
Until a couple of years ago, it was tough to believe that consumers could connect…
Insights From NRF 2023
Having experienced the NRF conference for the first time, I wanted to capture my reflections…
5 Ways Live Shopping Events Help Brands Build Relationships with Customers
Brands and retailers across North America have begun tapping into the vast potential that live…
Livestream Shopping Trends 2023 – 5 Can’t-Miss Trends for Brands
In 1995, RealNetworks, an internet company, developed the first media player that was able to…
Why Shoppable Videos Are The (Not-So-Distant) Future of Customer Engagement in Retail
Video marketing has come a long way since the days of Flash ads that would…