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August 02, 2005


Edward Cotton

I was thinking about this in the context of music.

For many, the single is even too long.

Gorillaz's recent hit track, "Feel Good" is really three tracks in one.

Also, some radio stations even have shows called "ADD hours?", where they play no more than 1 minute of each single.

dr. tv

Technology limitations may be responsible for short-duration, original video content when delivering video to cell phones. Right now established production companies are providing one-minute original mobisodes. As energy supply (battery capacity) and utilization (component energy requirements & energy management) improve, episode duration will increase as long as there is a market. As the industry matures over the next two years, we'll find out whether people or technology limitations ultimately drive this short-duration video market.

I personally believe that technology is the driving force now, but people will quickly grow accustomed to the shorter format. Once technology allows longer videos, I believe the majority will demand a shorter format.


I have to admit; shorter formats annoy me to the point that I don't participate any more. Rather a whole song than a samplette...


I think that in the long-run, you'll be less right (not totally wrong though) about album v. singles.

For the people who actually spend money on music (i.e., the people who download it), the trend is 100% geared towards albums. Only the mainstream laggards are moving towards singles, and they will come around quickly.

Why/how? The downloaders have all started using bit torrent. This makes downloading a full album take 20 min. or sometimes even just 5 min. for the popular ones. If the music industry embraced bit torrent, they would be selling 10% more albums within a year's time.

99% of the time, music blog recommendations come in the form of "pick up Band X's album."

It just makes more sense (and MORE MONEY FOR MUSIC COMPANIES) to promote bit torrent.

Jason Cormier

We are seeing our clients' increased interest in podcasting align with the shorter, faster, smaller concept for sure. They want the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time with the easiest delivery.

Mark Wasiel

"Music: Consumers are moving from albums to singles. "

This is a misleading comment. In the music industry, they tried, oh how they tried to bring back the physical CD-single over the last 5 years. Sales of the single have been miserable because record comapnies were charging $3-6 for one song, maybe some remixes. Now, the comment should read, consumers are moving from albums to tracks (i.e. downloads).

Why? The industry is a victim of its own technology. As the capacity of recording formats increase, the public has become less interested because they have less free time. Look back at the early LPs. I think most were 20-30 minutes. The ideal time I think was around 40-50 mintues in the 80s as this made it fit into a nice cassette tape. CDs could hold 72 minutes of music so it was natural of producers for the consumer to demand that the full CD is used since the price increased (value perception). This led to the 72 minute rap album with a few songs (1-3 hits) and a lot of filler (skits). If there's more tracks, it must be worth $19, right? :)

So, now people have a way to buy just the song they want. Most people don't have time to listen to a whole album because 1) nobody plans to spend that much time sitting and listening to an album and 2) most of the tracks on an album are filler to reassure the customer who paid full price that they are getting good value. If you can buy a DVD for less than $10 and its a good 2 hours of entertainment, it gets hard to validate spending $20 for an hour of music especially if the person only wants one song (3-5 minutes).

I don't think it is that people are going to continuous look for shorter and shorter entertainment. People just want to listen to a good song and usually, longer doesn't mean better. Don't expect the 10 second pop song anytime soon. :)

matt schulte

The 10 second pop song is the ringtone. And the 10 second (or less) sample that gets sliced out of a full-length song by a consumer/creator and recontextualized elsewhere. (Multiple song Mash-ups)
Digital consumer/creators consume and experience content differently than consumers. As soon as one says "don't expect...X anytime soon" I think you can be assured it's already happened or is happening, depending on how flexible your definition of "X" is.


"We are seeing our clients' increased interest in podcasting align with the shorter, faster, smaller concept for sure. They want the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time with the easiest delivery."

Why do podcasts necessarily align with shorter and quicker? I tend to think it's the reverse.

I also think podcasts will get longer and longer, not shorter, in the future as people do more spoken word casts.

John "Z-Bo" Zabroski

@Jason Cormier

Could you describe your clients? Also, you say your customers "want the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time with the easiest delivery." As a consultant, shouldn't you sell them on the importance of endurance and durability? I am sure you do because you mention "want[ing] the greatest impact," but how do you do achieve this? In other words, what is the shortest amount of time for a campaign without losing the greatest impact? Consider how many businesses rely on subscriptions, which have a cumulative effect (i.e., Wired Mag). I notice part of your expertise is in web site optimization; web site optimization is a continuous process that is incomplete. The art of web site optimization is managing the incompleteness of optimization: No web site is ever perfectly optimized because of the disorder in the market place. My point is that businesses [your customers?] want to compete and competition means endurance and durability, and that the greatest impact is long-term and the idea of quick impact seems contrary to Frederick Reichhold's Loyalty Rules! principles.

Having said all this, I think "Shorter, Faster, Smaller" is an excellent phrase that helps put focus on competitive forces, but what to shorten, make faster, and make smaller requires good business judgment. I think Chris missteps however by saying "we are increasingly seeing the end of one-size-fits-all content." I think the demise of broadcasting is counterintuitive to the Long Tail: As Ray Lawton says: You need the head. A more appropriate postulate might be that we are seeing the end of the counterintuitive "one-size-fits-all content" NICHES. After all, is a niche really a niche if it follows the principles of broadcasting? (My point may be poorly made if my understanding of the issue is incorrect. I am simply describing how I understood the issue being described and challenge it.)


I think there will always be a market for shorter, faster, smaller...we live in a consumer driven world where QUALITY doesn't really factor into the equation for many consumers. It's the act of consuming that people are willing to pay for.

In the case of music, I believe a factor that contributed to the cd single phenomena was that people were tired of spending $15+ dollars on a crappy album. If artists or should I say the industry that markets them actually spend time developing a record, then people will be willing to ante up and buy an entire album.

Going back to the quality angle...most of the players in the content space that play by these new rules will go the way of 90's dotcoms. Players like the NYT or WSJ will continue to keep on keeping on.

John P Shea

Of course, if the listener enjoys the content of a podcast, then they're more likely to listen to it again if its shorter rather than longer.

How many times have you listened to an interview again to get a deeper understanding of the issues, or a music podcast because it featured great tracks?

A big challenge though is keeping up with the never-ending deluge of new episodes, so perhaps a shorter podcast could ease this for the listener.

In Afterglow, we're trying to keep this (dark alternative) music podcast to within the half hour. Thoughts?

Laura Bergells

Explains the popularity of all the "Top 100 (fill in the blank)". The shows may be an hour long, and stretch out over 5 shows; but each topic is dished in quick, 2.5 minute segments -- and at least 9 people offer soundbites, riffs, comments, etc.

Short, shorter, shortest.


WRT Music - look at the list of this years Mercury nominees in the original article posted at top (from The Times, London) -

The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers
M.I.A. - Arular
Polar Bear - Held On The Tips Of Fingers
Kaiser Chiefs - Employment
Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger
Hard-Fi - Stars Of CCTV
KT Tunstall - Eye To The Telescope
Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
Seth Lakeman - Kitty Jay
Coldplay - X&Y
Antony And The Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now
The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike

At least 70% of these albums contain 6 or 7 great songs (some may not be hits, but are not 'fillers').

We need to be careful not to let recent technology trends cloud our judgement. The pop-song and album are classical constructions - much has been written about the 3.5 minute pop song, various fashions in Album construction, etc.

Album buying decisions encompass everything from band loyalty thru brand loyaly (the package or 'story' being sold). How does MP3 and iPod change this?

The classic 3.5 minute pop song probably emerged in direct response to technology, but it could easily be the other way round ( an original 10 inch diameter 78 rpm record plays for 3.5 mins, in the late 1800's some experimental media formats presented 1 minute song recordings) - and as technology moved on, some artists experimented successfully with varying track lengths, but the 3.5 minute track has remained all pervasive for over 100 years and through many media shifts (33rpm, 45 rpm, tape, MD, CD, etc. ) - is the pop song formula so deeply embedded that it just won't go away? Probably not - but it plainly takes more than tech change to make 'smaller' more attractive?

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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