When does short form win?

This writer on Medium makes a fairly straightforward and clear argument, with the aid of an informative graph. He gets the timeline and the constants and variables right.

Facebook took over the world by expanding into every possible country, and then sat on its laurels too long. Tiktok and Instagram opened up the short-form video as a way of communicating, and FB didn’t try to change.

This isn’t a bad thing in a sane market; having a connection to nearly everyone in the world is an enviable position, and a mature company with steady usage is also an enviable achievement. It’s only a bad thing in a pure Share Value market, which has now evaporated.

Is this just a yoot thing? Nope. I made the same switch in my OTR playlist after I found the pleasures of 15 minute and 5 minute and 1 minute programs.

Every medium eventually cultivates a short form, but some lose the short.

Fiction began with long and tiresome oral sagas (eg Beowulf) then long and tiresome novels, then spawned short stories and short shorts.

Music began with endless tiresome operas and cantatas, then spawned the 11 minute concerto, then the 2 minute pop song.

Magazines began with long articles, then spawned Readers Digest and Life.

Radio began with one-hour segments (not exactly programs) then developed a wide variety of lengths, then abandoned ALL of its actual programs in 1960. Rush brought back an EXTREMELY long form in the ’80s. Or more precisely stole the long form from existing talkers including my uncle.

The web followed a different pattern because it started with limited bandwidth. Loading a 10-minute video could take several hours. After bandwidth was solved, 10 minutes was sort of optimal, then (as with radio) the web developed a wide variety from 1 second to 10 hours. The supershort form came back into dominance after it wasn’t technically necessary.

When does long win, and when does short win?

Long (novels, operas, feature movies, docudramas) wins when people have aristocratic leisure, and especially when people want to be SEEN exercising their aristocratic leisure.

Short wins when people are seeking entertainment as background while doing something else. Duane Jones recognized this fact when he created ‘Fun at Breakfast’. These 5 minute bursts of Vaudeville and happy songs were meant to accompany shaving.

Later: Here’s one degree of short that I forgot, even though I use it all the time! A nice salute to the condensation power of GIFs.

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