Reading books can be a chore. Don’t get me wrong, I love books. I have a ton of them and have actually read most of them. Still, they tend to be long (Compared to, say, a tweet) and I tend to take quite a bit longer to read them. My non-fiction book consumption has suffered the most, especially business books. I just don’t have the time.
Which brings me to a brief roundup of three interesting short-form content examples. With Twitter, Vine, Snapchat, Instagram and the whole lexicon of infographics, we have so many formats and platforms available today that can deliver some interesting and short content experiences.
Vox – Everything You Need To Know
I am a big fan of Vox as an editorial source. The page design is a more sophisticated approach to tile-based design. Scrolling and browsing is a pleasure. Founder Ezra Klein and the Vox Media team have created a resource that is just plain easy to consume in short bursts while still walking away with meaning.
Their “Everything You Need to Know…” features are not your usual short-form in that they can actually be a lot of words. But they are organized in brief “cards” that you can easily scroll through. What makes them short is that you can learn a topic pretty comprehensively in a short session. They serve to get you up to speed on a trending idea or story like Charter Schools, Cliven Bundy or student debt in one gulp. They are well-written.
Vox also has truly short-form content with their “Explained in 2 Minutes” videos. The video that explains Bitcoin is a great example and also a part of a sponsored content play by GE. The video uses a well-written (and opinionated) voice over graphics approach and really helps frame a way of thinking about Bitcoin (a new kind of payment network but a “crappy” currency).
The GE sponsorship is under the rubric of #Pressing, “Unique views on policy from the best in news” and continues the brands exploration of content marketing, this time from the paid side.
Lowe’s Fix in Six
Can a :06 Vine video actually be useful or is the format destined to be the distraction not the substance? Just watch Lowe’s Fix in Six video on making staining a fence easier than a Tom Sawyer crowdsourcing gag. Then watch the cupcake pan flower-growing video. You get the idea. These guys/gals have really created something wonderfully useful in an impossibly short format. I would subscribe to Lowe’s Twitter feed just for these videos alone.
They have republished the Vine videos on a Tumblr page but, surprisingly, not kept that page up to date. The Tumblr gives them more visual control of the page and also puts them in that network. It does mean that the page is a duplicate of their Vine account. That doesn’t seem like such a problem because most people consumer Vines from within Twitter – one video at a time – and the Tumblr feels like a better aggregator than the Vine page.
More like Vox’s “Explained in 2 Minutes," NowThis News features go even shorter to give us the gist of a topic trending in the news now. Here’s their snapshot, “The company was founded by Huffington Post co-founder and former Chairman Kenneth Lerer, and former Huffington Post CEO Eric Hippeau. From studios in New York and Washington DC, NowThis News produces over 50 daily video updates for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, Android and Apple apps and the mobile web.”
Take a look at their video on eCigarettes. The :18-long video compiles provocative video and images with text overlays that tell the story and a driving beat hat keeps it all moving. Jump into a section like “US” and the latest videos will simply play one after the other to give you a digest of the news…probably faster than even scanning the newspaper story on the same subject.
This is all a little unnerving if you think of this as a sole source for your news. But that just isn’t most people’s behavior. We graze for news on TV, in our newspapers, on Twitter, in our RSS readers. Why not rely on a digest format for those stories bubbling up in the zeitgeist that just aren’t your passion but you need to know about? And most importantly perhaps, it is all designed for mobile consumption.
I will still read books, but I also love short-form that strives to go beyond the distraction and deliver content that is valuable.