How the New York Public Library Brought Novels to Instagram With Unexpectedly Huge Results

Insta Novels, a Cannes Lions favorite, grew followers 75%

Editor: Nick Gardner

The idea makes practically no sense at all. Full works of long-form literary fiction uploaded to … Instagram? And specifically to Instagram Stories, a format known for its fast and fleeting posts about nights on the town and outfits of the day?

But the New York Public Library pulled it off, thanks to the creativity, persistence and problem-solving of agency Mother New York. The “Insta Novels” project they created together quickly proved to be a publicity coup for the library, which became the subject of international media attention—and saw its Instagram follower base grow by 155,000, or roughly 75%.

Over the coming week, it’s also expected to be a jury favorite at the Cannes Lions, where it’s already been shortlisted for one of the festival’s most coveted awards—the Titanium Lion.

For Richert Schnorr, director of digital media for the library, the copious praise and engagement around Insta Novels shows that a longstanding brand—in this case, one that’s more than 120 years old—can pleasantly surprise its fans by embracing technology in exciting ways.

“We’ve been around a long time, and we have a reputation,” Schnorr tells Adweek. “So when we sort of subvert expectations, I think it really delights people.”

So far, Mother New York and the library have created four Insta Novels: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven was also adapted for the format.

Each book takes about three weeks to put together, says Corinna Falusi, chief creative officer and partner at Mother New York. Much of the initial design work included finding a format that created readable “pages” optimized for vertical smartphone screens, and each book also is illustrated by an artist selected specifically to suit its theme.

Luckily all the effort has been appreciated, with the Insta Novels being read more than 300,000 times in total since launching last August.

“The reason why I like this idea and why it feels so pure and honest is because it’s useful, and people used it,” Falusi says. “It is such an unusual way of using a platform.”

Learn more about the NYPL’s Insta Stories by watching Adweek’s video interview above with Schnorr and Falusi, and check out the case study below for details on its success. To read the Insta Novels themselves, check out the highlighted stories on the library’s Instagram account.

 

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