Webby x Instagram All-Stars June 4, 2019

New York Public Library Insta Novels

Mother New York brought classic novels to Instagram Stories with New York Public Library Insta Novels. Hear from the Mother New York team on how they used Instagram to create the Webby-winning project.

WEBBY x INSTAGRAM ALL-STARS is a new interview series produced in partnership with Instagram for Business, featuring this year’s best Webby-winning projects for Instagram. Read the first one below and stay tuned for more Q&As.

For critics who lament that social media and technology are facilitating the death of reading, meet the solution: New York Public Library Insta Novels.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Insta Novels


Mother New York, a Manhattan-based advertising agency, set out to make classic works of literature available to the online masses using Instagram’s most popular feature: Stories. New York Public Library Insta Novels combines timeless stories, animation, sound design, and graphic design to create one of this year’s most innovative digital experiences—landing the project the inaugural Webby for Best Use of Stories.

We spoke with Lauren van Aswegen, Creative at Mother New York, about the project, and how her team uses Instagram to produce groundbreaking work.

What inspired you to use Instagram and Instagram Stories’ interface for this project?

Instagram is arguably today’s most democratic storytelling tool, so it was already the perfect vehicle to deliver The Library’s mission statement: advance knowledge by providing free and open access to materials and information.

Insta Novels makes classic literature accessible to the public using Instagram Stories. What were some of the things you had to think about when crafting an interactive reading experience in a stories format?

Everything.  From the color of the page, to the placement of the thumb rest, to the original soundtracks, we thoughtfully sweat over every detail of this new format.

Instagram unknowingly created the perfect bookshelf for this new kind of online novel.”
— Lauren van Aswegen Creative at Mother New York

In addition to amazing animation, Insta Novels included great sound design. How did you approach using sound as a creative tool to enhance each work of literature?

We wanted each Insta Novel to engage audiences through every digital avenue available.  We knew we would be working with motion graphics, and that sound would be an important component to our readers.  Fun fact:  the music for each promotional video was created using the sound of real books!

Why is Instagram essential to your overall strategy? What do IG Stories, in general, help Mother communicate that you can’t do on other platforms?

Instagram unknowingly created the perfect bookshelf for this new kind of online novel. From the way you turn the pages, to where you rest your thumb while reading, the experience is already unmistakably like reading a paperback novel.

Insta Novels was very successful for NY Public Library. Can you talk about your strategy and what went into achieving these results?

The goal of Insta Novels was always to engage more people on Instagram with some of the world’s most iconic pieces of literature. We knew from the beginning that the media budget would be the same as a book from the library ($0), so the idea itself needed to be strong enough to naturally spread on its own.

Insta Novels made classic works of literature accessible to a wide community on Instagram that may not be visiting libraries. What community did you set out to reach with this project? Was it successful?

The community we’re trying to reach is really just anyone with a phone who has access to Instagram. Since the program’s launch, over 300,000 Insta Novels have been read! Clearly, people were ready to read something with more substance on the platform.

You won the first-ever Webby Award for Best Use of Stories! What does it mean for you and your work?

Receiving recognition from the Webbys means we’re achieving what we set out to achieve: capture the attention of digital audiences, and make access to literature easier for every Instagram user.

Read more from our WEBBY X INSTAGRAM ALL-STARS series:

BBDO NY on Bacardi Live Moves

Saatchi & Saatchi LA on @SEELIKEMENNA

Annex88 on DEERUPT

Burberry on B SERIES