The last day of the 14th edition of FICCI Frames was marked by heated discussions, some of them spiced up by the presence of Bollywood stars. In a discussion titled 'The past present and future of content consumption: Long form vs split second viewing' moderated by Rajiv Makhni of NDTV, representatives of different media platforms shared their views on long and short format of content.
If this discussion was happening three years ago, there would be no debate at all. It was unanimously believed that we are moving towards shorter formats. But now, we know for sure that it's more about content engagement than format. It's now established that if the content is crap, it doesn't matter whether it's a minute-long video or a 30-minute film.
Ajay Vidyasagar, regional director, Google
We at Google don't really see it as a debate. We believe that they co-exist.
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.
The evolution of technology has aided shorter formats. If YouTube was launched today, I think shorter formats would have been trending more on it. As for advertising, I don't know why that should be a big problem. We at YouTube have given the consumers an option of skipping the ads, while at the same time, we don't charge the advertisers any money if the ad isn't being watched for more than 30 per cent of the total length.
The main reason for people turning to YouTube for their dose of television (serials) is that a 15-minute episode turns out to be a 35-minute video on television (due to the ads). So, long format on television is actually a short format on YouTube. I think that advertising on television has been pushed a bit too hard.
Mark Wilson Dunn, global sales and marketing director, British Telecom Media & Broadcast
The shorter format largely acts as the entry point (or sampling opportunity) for the longer format content. For instance, the younger generation consumes a lot of news content. This is largely because the news is getting disseminated in shorter formats through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, amongst others. Ultimately, they come to television to watch more of it.
Shorter formats are consumed more when there is a scarcity of time - at the airports or in trains. Also, in shorter formats, one needs to take care of the quality that is being delivered through various screens.
To summarise, I think longer and shorter formats can exist symbiotically in the best way, while everyone is trying to understand consumer behaviour.
Kalpesh Yagnik, national editor, Dainik Bhaskar Group
We can't attribute the existence of shorter format to the fact that everything is going online. The same debate is on within the print media fraternity, too. Understanding the pattern of news consumption in different markets is of prime importance. Largely, there are two types of consumption: longer full page articles which are mostly opinionated and analysis, while the shorter news snippets (what we call 'racey' format) are single column write-ups or boxes with highlights.
However, the problem with the short format is that some news providers make it so short that the truth is lost.
In IRS, we get the ratings in terms of the number of readers and the time spent per reader. I think short news can't be governed by the amount of time spent, rather a combination of time spent and number of words.
Bharat Ranga, chief content and creative officer, ZEE
Most of us are content aggregators - content which is expression-led and hence, necessarily of a shorter format. A reaction or expression, in general, cannot be a very long form of content. For example, a social media update or a stand-up comedy act.
Another type is specially created content, like the soaps or the films. We also see both magazines and newspapers co-existing. I believe one has to be always ready to catch the trend. The audience is moving towards a blend of both formats.
On Ditto TV (the OTT platform by ZEEL), we have realised that close to 60-70 per cent of the content consumed by subscribed consumers is long format (30 minute shows). However, when we include the free consumers on the platform (who can freely access the content for some stipulated time initially), we realise that the percentage of consumption of the two formats is almost equal.
As for the advent of technology, yes, I believe most of the shorter formats of content were invented due to new media and is used to promote the longer formats. Lastly, 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.
Rishi Jaitly, head, Twitter India
Though Twitter limits one's expression to 140 characters and 6-second videos, it would be surprising to know that I vouch for the longer format. Twitter is a conversational medium and a lot of traffic to the longer format content is routed through the shares that they get on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Twitter is working in tandem with the longer format content; it's a transactional relationship. TV is a great example of the same. While people watch TV, they often post their reactions and experiences on Twitter.
The longer format is not dying; rather, its user is changed. The scope of advertising is also increasing. During the Super Bowl in January, there were many advertisers (such as Oreo and Tide) who created custom marketing on Twitter in the 34 minutes of the powerhouse. Allen Solly recently created a billboard with many smaller Twitter screens, each showing the tweets that mention the brand name. I think shorter formats help advertisers to get more creative.
The pessimistic view, however, is that the attention spans are decreasing further, due to shorter formats.