MUMBAI: As we dive into the digital era, there is a fear that audience patience is shrinking and that a distracted audience will move from screen to screen, consuming ‘bite‘ sized content like tweets, headlines and YouTube videos. However, in this era, long form content seems to have revived from two minutes ads, longer articles and richer fiction content. Hence, there is a co-existence of both in the industry.
According to British Telecom Media & Broadcast global sales and marketing director Mark Wilson Dunn, the shorter format largely acts as the entry point (or sampling opportunity) for the longer format content. He also believes that the creative process is important, whether it‘s short format or long. "The acceptance span of a human is 15 minutes today and hence short format attracts people. I think longer and shorter formats can exist symbiotically in the best way, while everyone is trying to understand consumer behaviour." he said.
According to Zee Entertainment Enterprise Ltd (Zeel) chief content and creative officer Bharat Ranga, content today is either specially created or is expression based. There can be no versus and both have to co-exist.
Catching the audience trend is important as content consumption is moving towards a blend of both the formats. "I think like most media vehicles, advertisers will put money based on their gut feelings. The growth will further be defined by the measurement techniques that are being used and that would come to the fore in the future. We at Zee always stay ahead of time but there is a learning here because at times we need to move with time rather than going too much ahead of it."
Ranga also said that most of short films are because of the long formats of the show. "We use short form to promote our long format content. To monetise the same through advertising, I think the industry needs to have a third-party measurement technique. Once the evaluations are done, the advertisers will realise and be able to justify the short format‘s value."
Twitter India head Rishi Jaitly agreed that the short form helps the channels analayse the popularity of the show through social media. "Twitter is working in tandem with long form, leading to the co-existence of both long and short forms. I think shorter formats help advertisers to get more creative. The amount of noise a show is making on social media shows the success of that show," Jaitly said.
Google regional director Ajay Vidyasagar observed that the main reason for people turning to YouTube for watching television shows is that on television there is an interruption of about 13 minutes in the 30-minute duration of the show. So, the long format on television is actually a short format on YouTube. "I think that advertising on television has been pushed a bit too hard," Vidyasagar noted.
Vidyasagar also mentioned that the content, whether it‘s long or short, should arrest the viewer. "Today consumers are landing in front of content without intimidation and pass on the feedback to their community. Though people in India consider that YouTube offers short format content, globally our average consumption is much more for the longer formats. An important reason to this difference is that in India there are access issues and hence, probably, shorter formats work better."
NDTV managing editor-technology Rajiv Makhni, who was the moderator of a session at Ficci Frames 2013 titled "The Past Present and Future of Content Consumption: Long form VS Split Second Viewing", said that if this discussion was happening a few years ago, there would be no debate about the long and short format at all. "It was unanimously believed that we are moving towards shorter formats. But now, it‘s more about content engagement than format. If content is crap, its crap, be it a minute-long video or a 30-minute film," he added.
Giving an insight from the print industry, Dainik Bhaskar Group national editor Kalpesh Yagnik said, "It is of prime importance that we understand the pattern of news consumption in different markets."
Yagnik noted that there are two types of consumptions - Racey format (Short format) and Long Form. Audience consumes news which is information, incident-oriented in racey manner, in the morning or while travelling, but the long format where there are opinion-based columns or articles relating to literature and their culture, they hold back for evening reading.
"The racy format should not be governed by minutes but with a combination of words and time spent words. The only problem with the short format is that at times in order to make the news short the truth is lost," Yagnik added.