Long-form content in the age of reels and shorts

Why is the myth of ‘long-form content is dead’ being propagated? It is because it is easy to create short content and even easier to gather statistics on it, for it has a short shelf life

Published: 27th July 2022 12:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th July 2022 12:04 AM   |  A+A-

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I have been creating digital content since 2004, from the time when blogging was a new tool and none of us knew what the future held for it. Many platforms, tools and trends have come and gone in these 18 years. Only a few managed to sustain themselves in the long run. Most bloggers have also transformed into Instagrammers—those good with visuals become YouTubers—who find it easier to shoot than write, and podcasters. We have always been a society that loves to listen rather than read. Then there are micro-blogging platforms like Twitter and Koo that let you say something quickly and even instantly generate a reflexive response. 

The latest trend is 15-second videos called ‘reels’ on Instagram and ‘shorts’ on YouTube. Both the platforms are actively pushing them. YouTube even has a $100 million special fund for shorts creators. Creativity has no limits, so you can do whatever you want in these short-form videos. 

However, when you randomly browse to see what people are posting or trending, you typically see people dancing to popular songs or performing on trending dialogue at their homes, rooftops, gardens, and just about anywhere. Bumping into a shoot during your morning or evening walks is not unusual. Then there are motivational speakers, financial advisors, and astrology consultants trying to tell you one mantra per video as a one-pill solution for all your problems. If you do not like something, swipe and move on to the next video. 

Some of us have focused on long-form content through these waves. Yes, we have our presence on all these platforms, but the core of our creative work stays on our blogs. Many questions have come my way of late on the relevance of long-form content. 

On a Twitter spaces session on content creation, a digital marketer proclaimed that long-form content is dead as if I am talking about the last century. The logic being the latest myth—attention spans are shrinking; no one wants to see anything more than a few seconds. If you cannot convey your point in 30 seconds, you can forget it. Most of this comes from the marketing and public relations professionals. Remember, these people exist somewhere between the content creators and brands.

Now, when I look at the statistics of my travel blog, I can see that the number of people reading us every month is still in the six digits. They choose to stay on the pages for the few minutes required to read the lengthy articles. They are taking time to comment—it takes two to four minutes for a genuine comment. Even our decade-old articles are still performing well. Clients are still engaging with us for long stories. 

We see many long-form content platforms launched with a subscription model where you can read the well-researched, well-articulated articles only as a paid subscriber. They do rich, deep-dive stories that take a lot of time, effort and resources to research and write. There are long-form podcasts that are performing well. Advertising is not a viable model though it continues to be a prime model for most content platforms. Many of these platforms manage to sustain themselves, indicating demand for long-form content. 

Long-form content takes time to create, and its impact snowballs—slowly and over a period of time. It is like Chayawanprash that you eat in childhood, giving you good health in middle age. Long-form content expects its consumers to invest not just time but also their focused attention. It neither doubts their intelligence nor intends to bring it down. In fact, it wants to add to what they already know, give them additional dimensions to see the same subject and widen their horizon with deep insights. 

Why is the myth of ‘long-form content is dead’ being propagated? It is because it is easy to create short content and even easier to gather statistics on it, for it has a short shelf life. You post a reel, run a campaign, and the next day you can show the statistics to the client and bill them the third day. Statistics of long-form content take time to build and would probably never match the 15-second lifestyle video. Impact, well, that is impossible to compare. 

Short-form content works for equally short shelf-life situations like the release of a film or an event where you want to influence the audience. Your instantaneous window for execution is short, and decisions can be instant. For most other things, the audience needs to be informed and educated, and they will buy when they need to. I can add a destination to your wish list through my content, but you will travel when your family has the time, budget and priorities. Now, would you remember a destination that you were inspired to visit after a trusted person described it to you or when you saw a beautiful model just posing there? I want to know. 

Author and founder of IndiTales



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