Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Length Matters

This is a short post about short-form content consumed in large doses on the web (in one sitting in front of my laptop each time). (And with oh so provocative a title!) It made me think about how much length (of video content in particular) matters given the many different situations, mindsets, needs or more importantly from an entertainment perspective wants and constraints (time, screen size, ADD, etc.) which people bring when they "go online" every day.

It started late Sunday afternoon after getting home from watching the Euro 2008 Final. I read a post over at Paul's blog about Inside Sudan on I watched the 5 approximately 4 and a half minute about Sudan and then moved over to Vice's Guide to North Korea and knocked out the 13 part series (average 4 to 5-minutes each) like it was my job. (Actually, that'd be a pretty sweet job - Shane Smith's job or a job watching all VBS's content.)

Then on Monday night, I was exhausted but then as I was catching up on Kanye's blog (by the way, peep this ridiculous thing he just did for Absolut's Artist Series), he noted how Jay-Z killed in the U.K. So after the controversy, I wanted to see for myself. And I did. For almost an hour (ending after midnight), I watched the 9 parts (median time of ~8 minutes each) of Jay-Z live at Glastonbury on YouTube.

My feeling is (and behavior would suggest) that the smaller chunks of video content are more appealing to a time-crunched (perception even if not reality) web audience because they seem more digestible/watchable/doable. (Lunchable?) In fact, I think a short piece of content (like sampling) is critical to getting people to "invest in the rest." (I'm considering trademarking this phrase.) I, personally, am also more likely to get through books with more, shorter chapters than few long ones. Each I read is a sense of accomplishment. However, I'm not buying a book based on this criteria. On the Interweb, most often you get it all for free, so engagement is more important. Thus, how the content is served up is more important.

One difference between the two viewing experiences is that on YouTube the next clip played without me having to click. This was not a necessity to keep me engaged but certainly a nice to have. Plus, I didn't necessarily have to watch the performance the entire time rather could listen with surfing, so the autoplay was nice. However, back to the point, I couldn't help but wonder if our Brawny Academy back at Fallon would have had more success had it made its ~15-minute episodes shorter (if we had cut each in half). It's not about the sum total time of the content (which is the same either way), it's about the length of its parts (which can be made more palatable, enticing to the audience).


Kevin said...

I find myself avoiding videos online most of the time. I think its because of the time commitment. How long to load? Will there be pre-roll? Am I going to have to tweak the settings on my browser or download the latest version of whatever plug-in to watch it? I'm probably in the minority on this...but text works so much better for me because its instant and I can scan it. God forbid you touch the fast forward button on a web video. That mistake can cost a lifetime of load time. Did that just sound like the rant of an old man railing against technology?

El Gaffney said...

You sound old as hell, and I like it. Gotta respect VBS's ad integration and how they respect their audience. Banners are seamlessly worked into the look and feel of the page and you have the option to "Skip the ad" on every video.

Jun Loayza said...

Hi Seth,

I feel that different types of people like different content lengths. For example, I love short videos and short articles. I write short emails that are very core and to the point. My friend Yu-kai loves to read long articles and listen to 40 min podcasts. His emails take about an hour to write. Overall, I think the mainstream does like short and to the point content. Most of us have ADD :P

Since we're both members of BC, I want to invite you to my FD Career private beta:
Code: junloayza

FD Career is a website where you can research companies and contribute by adding your comments about companies. This is a very early private beta, so you'll most likely encounter a lot of bugs. Throughout the summer, we'll be releasing more features like the FD RPG and FD Answers.

Would love it if you tried it out, added your contributions, and gave me your feedback.

Thanks Seth! Look forward to hearing back from you.

- Jun