The Return of Long-Form Content

By July 17, 2018Branding

The old models of content delivery don’t work anymore, right? Everyone is busy. Everyone is distracted. We all have ADD. Way too much screen time. Media is too fragmented. Too many choices. So your content has to be short. Snackable. Chunkable. Bite Size. Drip. It’s gotta be easy to consume and easy to share. Packaged just right so that they can scarf it down like fast food from the drive through window.

Not. True.

Long-form content is more popular than ever. Some examples …

Hugely popular podcasters like Joe RoganAdam Carolla and Theo Von regularly air episodes that are 2 – 3 hours long.

Intellectual phenom Jordan Peterson has lectures on YouTube (1.3 million subscribers!) that are 2 – 3 hours long – and have 2.5 million views.

Black Panther, Jurassic World, Avengers: Infinity War are all top grossing movies of 2018 – and all are well over 2 hours long.

Isaacson’s incredible book on DaVinci is 624 pages long. Peterson’s million+ selling book “12 Rules for Life” is 365 pages long. Springsteen’s stellar autobiography is 528 pages long.

The two top grossing novels of 2018 are “The President is Missing” (528 pages) and “The Perfect Couple” (480 pages).

Serial shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime are hugely popular. With each episode much longer than traditional TV episodes.

How can this be? In a world full of fragmentation, saturation and too-much-information, how did long-form content become so popular.

A few thoughts …

The #1 factor is that we humans always love a great story. There’s something of the human psyche that is drawn to story. We are wired for it. A great story bends time. It makes time almost irrelevant. A great story is transcendent of current conditions. When enraptured by a story, we can escape from the pressures of life.

A second factor is portability. Podcasts, YouTube videos, audio books are – obviously – highly portable. This allows us to fill in the seams and crevices of time – like commuting, working out, flying. This also feeds our sense of accomplishment because we are double dipping on time.

Another factor is that self-care/personal growth is hot right now. And there are many ways to manifest this self-care and personal growth. For many, consuming long-form content is a type of self-care. It’s indulgent. It’s fulfilling. And if it’s intellectual or spiritual content, it also triggers a sense of achievement.

In analyzing popular long-form content, I’ve noticed three must-haves:

  • Originality. This is true in all aspects of life and business. There are way too many karaoke singers covering other people’s stuff. But this is particular true with long-form content. We want, demand, need content that we’ve not heard or seen before. We need to laugh, think, cry – all emotions that are most often triggered by originality.
  • Rawness. This varies based on the medium, but when it comes to podcasts and YouTube videos, we don’t want them too polished. We want to consume something that’s organic – where the content provider is speaking from their souls. Even in more structured content like a book or movie, we still want to connect to the soul of the creator. We want to feel the pieces of themselves they put in to their work.
  • Consistency. You can’t half-ass long form content. If you are going to do, you gotta do it again and again. This consistency comes in the form of frequency, quality and provocation. This means that the creators of content must always be learning and growing. They need to be aware to not get sucked into a formulaic approach in the name of consistency.

Long-form content works if you are rooted and confident in who you are and how you show up the world (what we would call your Brand). You have to truly believe in what you have to share. You have to be disciplined about presenting it in a compelling way. Both of which are the fruits of self-confidence. And you have to pick the platform that takes the most advantage of your natural gifts and talents. I don’t know that I would ever be able to craft a 400 page book. But I could definitely talk for 3 hours on a podcast!

What long-form content are you consuming? Reply in comments.

One Comment

  • Reuben says:

    Great points. While we seem to have shorter attention spans than ever, and so many distractions, it’s nice to get deep into something if the story is good. And if it’s good, of course we want more of it. 😉 I like books vs short blogs posts, and podcasts vs clickbait videos. I also like (some) in-depth YouTube videos.

    The problem with long form content is deciding if and when to commit to it. People often say you should spend 20% of your time creating content and 80% of your time promoting it. For long-form content, which takes even more time to produce, you probably need to go 90/10, at least until you have a big enough audience that you don’t have to convince people to invest the time.

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