Why It’s Time to Start Creating Shorter Content

(Photo by: Karolina Grabowska)

It’s past time to cut unnecessary length requirements, like word count and video length.

It’s time to accept the idea of shorter content, and it’s time to start creating it.

People want short content, and when we can, we should give it to them.

For starters, the more direct and convenient your message, the better. You know it. I know it. And everyone else knows it.  But a lot of people just aren’t ready to admit it.

Second, the time has come for shorter content because getting to the point is what the market wants.

Remember your mission

Some people aren’t creating short-form content because they’re entangled in beside-the-point debates about reading habits and shortening attention spans.

Addressing those issues may be a valid scope of work—for somebody. But as a content creator, that somebody isn’t you.

Ask yourself, what is it that you came here to do? Inform, teach, entertain?

Most of us are here for one of those reasons or something very close.

Being a creator already entails more than enough work. We don’t need to add the social cause of saving society’s attention span.

Not to mention that fighting the market’s appetite for shorter content is a battle you’re likely to lose.

Wanting shorter content isn’t new

In the past, creators had more liberty to elongate things. They could show off on the page, on the screen, or over the airwaves and people had more tolerance for it. But that’s because people had fewer options for how they spent their time and where they could get what they wanted.

At one time, getting the answer meant reading a book or a long, deep-dive article. But as soon as people got the ability to scroll, skim, and search, they started turning away from long-form print.

Now, people can type a question and Google or ChatGPT serves up the exact details instantly, with little to no fluff.

For visual entertainment, at one time, the fastest people could expect it was in half an hour. A TV show that was actually only 20-some-odd minutes was broken up and stuffed between commercials and credits.  Some programs were drug out more. Think about the maddening trickle of soap operas, where it took weeks of one-hour episodes for a person standing by the door to actually go outside.

As soon as people got the ability to record and replay, they exercised their power to shorten programs to what they wanted to see.

Then, when people were able to condense programs more by buying series on DVD or watching on Netflix, they rushed to do it, changing TV trends forever.

Now, people are genuinely entertained by bare-bones 15-second clips.

The fact is, the market has been displaying an appetite for shorter content for a long time. We aren’t going to change that.

Don’t fight the market

In creative circles, people tend to say, ‘I have no competition but myself.’ But that’s absolutely false.

Creating content is a business. People who read, watch, or listen to that content are our consumers.

Consumers choose where to spend their money and time. As in any industry, if we want them to do their spending with us, we have to be competitive.

A great thing about the creative world right now is that it’s open and able to feed so many people. But the downside is the content market is shifting from craft to commodity.

The supply of that commodity is non-stop.

More and more content is created every day. And creators in very different fields are competing. News viewers get lured in by music. Music listeners get enticed by comedy skits. Comedy fans get drawn into anime, etc. etc.

People are busy, and even when they aren’t, they don’t want to overcommit to a single thing. The more things that become accessible, the more things people want to experience.

That even applies to your body of work. Just because you offer short content doesn’t mean it’s a one-night stand. Many people would rather have bragging rights to reading four of your novellas than one of your 2,000-page books.

People like to feel they get as much as possible for the money or time they spend. And frankly, people like to put up numbers.

We can’t afford to take the position that we’re going to tell the market what we’re offering and they can take it or leave it. Because the reality is, yes, our viewers/readers/listeners can leave it. And they can find something to replace us in a snap.

The market has spoken—people don’t like excess packaging.

This is not to say sacrifice quality for brevity. Short-form content is right for every situation, but sometimes, it’s all that’s needed.

And if we want to be competitive, we need to respect people’s time by not wasting their time with content that’s longer than it needs to be.


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