Is long the new short?
Musings on the current state of content.
Vine is dead. It was sudden and, unless you were a loyalist, it was relatively painless. In the end, most of us were surprised it had survived as long as it did.
But we have to remember that Vine came of age in a time (a time not that long ago) when short was king. Buzzfeed-y listicles were the new gold standard of journalism. We’d mastered the ability to think in 140 characters or less. Reactive advertising was huge. As a stunt, Miller Lite bought a one second Super Bowl ad. Shorter. Shorter. Shorter. More. More. More.
This mindset, substantiated by a Microsoft study done in 2015 revealing we basically have the attention span of a Goldfish® cracker, had agencies everywhere churning out bite-sized content by the truckload.
Don’t get us wrong, short does have strategic merit. However, now that Vine has officially kicked the bucket, we’re wondering if the era of short-form domination has, too.
The Second Dawn of Long
During short’s heyday, the content fatigue began to get real. Constant bombardment rendered a lot of brands’ noble intentions and short-form creativity meaningless. There was just so much stuff to look at, you could never really see anything.
Then, when it seemed like we needed it most, in came Serial. The crime podcast that re-opened the mysterious 1999 case of murdered Baltimore teen Hae Min Lee swept the nation. It became the most popular podcast of all time and, with 75 million downloads after the first episode aired, you couldn’t have a single conversation without talking about it. Each episode ran about an hour long, and yet week after week we hung onto every second. Surely our goldfish brains were going to explode. But guess-freaking-what? They didn’t! Instead, Serial introduced the longer medium (and the concept of long-form storytelling in general) to a whole new set of listeners.
We’re not saying Serial invented long, I mean BMW Films has been killing the game since ’01, but what they did do was evolve how it could be done — they found a new way to tell a story. Around the same time, companies and content creators alike climbed aboard the proverbial and once-again-profitable long ship. Buzzfeed hired long-form editors. Netflix and Amazon began creating Original Series that we then binge-watched all weekend long. Non-traditional news sites slash blogging platforms like Medium were gaining traction.
To us, Serial ushered in the dawn of a new day. One where we as advertisers really noticed long-form content, when done well, had the power to reclaim the illusive millennial audience’s attention.
Meaningful > Mindless
But with great power comes great responsibility. Long ask more from its viewers and therefore has to give more in return. Basically, if we’re going to ask people to spend some serious time with our content, it has to be damn good and easy to watch.
Case in point: the fact that binge-watching has replaced baseball as our new national pastime. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu continue to churn out amazing original content and then make it available to watch anywhere. We are hooked and the obsession only stands to grow deeper.
The discovery and mastery of long’s secret formula (quality + accessibility) has given rise to a new, more expansive battlefield where content creators have to seriously step it up or *cough cough* just cruise Sundance *cough cough* to win consumers’ precious time and attention. With so many new choices of where to watch or listen, and brands to like and follow, long forces audiences to ditch their mindless-watching ways. Instead, consumers have become selective about where they spend their time. And when you can capture someone for a full three minutes or even an hour out of his or her crazy life, that means something.
Hold onto your butts, long is back and content has never been so cool.
No longer constrained by :15, :30 or even :60 formats, advertising’s most creative minds are focused on telling compelling stories in new, exciting and captivating ways.
Remember when Pharrell made us happy for a full 24-hours? When Virgin America’s BLAH Airlines blew us away with boring? When the New York Times helped us see war-torn countries with new eyes?
Long begs to be paired with innovation and from Instagram and Snapchat to YouTube and VR, we now have the ability to turn content into an engaging experience.
Yep, long-form content is not only happening right now, it’s the future. Its possibilities are endless and impact immeasurable.
We here at Standard Time believe in long’s promise. In the process of delivering valuable stories and humanizing brands, long also has the ability to mend the perception of the ad industry as a whole. Our sell-sell-sell façade is beginning to fade, replaced with a method that lets us connect to our consumer in a real and authentic way. Man, we love long.
And on that note: cheers to you for making it to this point. You’ve overcome that inner goldfish and, like us, seem to dig a dose of long every now and then, too.