A while back I argued that once it's freed from the tyranny of channels and schedules, TV would cease to come primarily in half-hour chunks. Instead, more video content would be in shorter canape-sized morsels, say three, five, or ten minutes in length, better suited to online viewing habits and bite-sized attention spans. And, sure enough, Al Gore's Current TV is doing just that (although why it isn't all stream/downloadable yet is a mystery). They explain:
We slice the rest of the schedule into short pods -- each just a few minutes long -- that range far and wide, from international dispatches to profiles of cool people to intelligence on new trends. This is not a traditional TV network; watching Current, you'll see more, on more topics, from more points of view.
The rise of shorter, smaller content is actually a trend that's affecting all media and entertainment, reflecting not just the taste of a quick-change generation but also an increasing variety and flexibility in the ways we can consume media. As we leave the era of one-size-fits-all distribution, we'll increasingly see the end of one-size-fits-all content. Indeed there's an increasing amount of evidence that this is already underway:
- Music: Consumers are moving from albums to singles.
- TV: Networks are looking for short video that works as well online as on broadcast.
- Movies: Online distribution is creating a big new audience for short films.
- Videogames: Between cellphone games, "casual" web games and downloadable content, smaller games are on the rise.
- Magazines: Reflecting the pace of a browse-and-skim culture, articles are getting shorter.
Note that this increased range of distribution options can allow for longer content, too, with the rise of TV shows on DVD (where you can watch much of a season at a single sitting) as a prime example. But the overall trend is toward shorter, faster, smaller everything. We're increasingly fine-slicing both the time we give media and the media itself. Small is the new big.