Digital media favors short content

The web favors short-form media.

Tim O’Reillyy has a brief piece about how “the web has put a premium on short-form content.” He’s right, of course. The new medium is tuning our minds to take in information by the teaspoonful – from YouTube clips to what Google calls “snippets” of text. And producers, whether professional or amateur, are responding by serving up more “small chunks,” to use O’Reilly’s term.

O’Reilly notes that “small chunks” are also attractive today because they’re “modular.” They’re suited to what’s come to be called “social production,” in which a lot of people contribute a lot of chunks to create a big pile ofchunks.

I’m not convinced this is something to regret.  It’s perfectly suitable, I think, to use the web for short form and print for long.  I think it will be a long time before the public loses its taste for novels and feature films. For journalists, big investigative pieces might always work better in broadsheet, but that doesn’t mean the story couldn’t have been served in small doses over several days (serialized) on the web before print publication, or reported on an “as we know it it” basis during the investigation.

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4 thoughts on “Digital media favors short content

  1. A couple of weeks ago I heard a report on NPR about the invention of the phonograph and how it changed music. Even classical composers would adapt their music to the 78 rpm phonograph, which could hold approximately 3-4 minutes of music. Now that cds can hold much more music, most pop/rock songs still clock in at about 3-4 minutes.

    So I suppose we’re always jiggering our content to fit the length requirements of the medium.

  2. I just read an interview with some recording artist who put only 30 minutes or so of music on her CD. The quote was something like, “I only have the patience for as much music as two sides of a 33 can hold. Just because a CD can hold more doesn’t mean it should.”

    Also, commercial radio still favors the 3 minute song.

    Personally, I’m still of the punk mindset — rock songs were meant to be short.

    Now time constraints are driven by audience habits, demands and recaction. We can go on forever, if we like, but who will stick with it?

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