For several years, as Esri unfolded Story Maps, I have to admit I did not quite get the purpose other than the obvious explanation that "maps tell stories." Yes, we GIS people know quite well how to explain geospatial phenomenon using spatial analysis … to other GIS people. But Story Maps have been billed as that which can explain spatial stuff to the "non-GIS" literate (think "business people").
Yet I still didn't understand the difference. Story Maps looked like "maps." But I'll assume I was simply "vacant."
One of the demos made it all click. At the Esri Federal GIS conference this week, a Story Map was displayed side by side with a regular web map. What was missing? The legend from the web map was replaced with text or a narrative on the Story Map. See this example from the Sochi Olympics.
This small, visual nuance provided the graphical explanation to me better than anything I had sat through in the three plus years that Story Map has been out. Seeing the two side-by-side, web map to Story Map, was important. To be sure, and perhaps only to me, this was a very subtle change but it made all the difference. It's what Esri also calls, "Placed-based Narratives." Esri already supplies Story Map templates to help users turn their ordinary web maps into Story Maps.
Just following this demo, Esri announced an enhancement, coming in March to the Story Maps story called the Executive Briefing Book. The Executive Briefing Book is optimized for use on a tablet and dynamic views allow users to zoom into more detail. See the video below for more information.