I’ll keep this short. Or long.
If I kept it short, a suitable length might be 140 characters – the length du jour for the communication of vital information quickly on the web these days. I send a lot of such messages (some, I’m sure, would say too many) and (I think) have gotten pretty good at squeezing a necessary amount of detail into such a short space as to at least communicate a clear, complete thought. Most of the time. (But we’ll get to that in a moment). Single photos or short videos also fall into this bucket.
If I went long, however, perhaps it would make more sense to expand this post into an extended essay or even publish it as an ebook (a Kindle single or what have you) that you, as an interested reader would (perhaps) be willing to pay for. This also includes things like long-form video or audio, news applications and some of the new forms of presentation that some of the more forward-thinking news organizations and startups are experimenting with.
For the very short messages I send I really never expect to receive any sort of renumeration for my efforts. I’m happy to accept the compensation of a follow here, a retweet there, perhaps the added (mostly intangible) benefit of social capital and relationships that accrue over time, but I don’t by any means need or expect any of that. I’m happy to just spread information and have conversations and that’s reward enough.
For longer, deeper, more in-depth considerations of particular topics, however, assuming I made it easy enough for you to do so, perhaps you would be willing to compensate me a little (say 99 cents, because that’s about what I think you’d be willing to pay) for the additional time and effort I put into crafting such an opus.
Interestingly, in my own media consumption I find far less use these days for the in between.
When I read an article or blog post that is perhaps a couple hundred words long, I frequently find myself thinking one of two things:
1) Yeah, that could have really been summed up in a tweet
2) I wish there was more context/detail/explanation/etc. here and this article is really too short to cover this topic in sufficient depth
And (this is the really important part) for that second option, as a consumer of this long-form content, I would often be willing to pay (again, a little) if you, the producer of that content went long, provided the necessary depth and then made it easy enough for me to make some kind of financial contribution to support the additional effort.
Note that this is NOT the same as paying for a bundle of several hundred word articles delivered together with advertising (because we all know how well that’s been working out).
So, I wonder: are content creators spending too much time creating content that falls in the space between: neither pithy, short, (often a little throwaway) nor sufficiently weighty, in-depth (and worth paying for)?
I would argue that we would all be better served if content creators covered things like breaking news, internet memes, etc. exclusively in short-form, without the expectation of compensation while at the same time freeing up more time and resources to go long when it really matters and when the topic and treatment are arguably more worthy of financial support.
Obviously I’ve over-simplified the issue a little (or maybe a lot), because I’ve ignored many of the technical, business and editorial roadblocks that still stand in the way (although I don’t necessarily buy many of those excuses), but I’m very interested in what you all think. Please leave a comment below and let me know whether you think long and short will win out (yay!), if you prefer something a bit more in-between (boo!), or if you think the answer is something else entirely.
(Sorry this post is a couple hundred words, I realize the irony).