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In just the past few years, we’ve seen a remarkable transformation of content on the web. The web has transformed from being primarily a text-based medium into being a highly visual medium that’s dominated by photos and videos. Moreover, even the text-based content that’s being produced has continued to shrink in size, from long-form blogs, all the way down to 140-character tweets. So what’s the future of content creation for digital marketers?
Is this the end of long-form content?
It would be easy to assume that it’s time to throw in the towel on long-form content and focus exclusively on video content. On nearly every social network, the amount of written content seems to be shrinking and video is ascendant. On Instagram, for example, most photos are simply accompanied by a few words and an emoji or two. On Twitter, you’re not expected to be particularly eloquent – just post a reaction GIF and you’re good to go.
But that ignores the fact that online “storytelling” is very much in vogue these days. And that’s what digital marketers do – they tell stories. And that’s something that all the big social networks grasp – people want a certain structure to all the content that’s out there. They want more than just a simple Instagram photo – they want Instagram Stories that show what happened over a 24-hour period so that there’s the right context. Even Facebook is reportedly moving way from quick 15-second videos and moving toward scripted TV shows that last as long as 30 minutes.
And it’s not necessarily the case that long-form content is disappearing. Case studies and e-books are still very much a highly effective tool, especially for B2B companies. And there will always be a premium placed on the ability to explain concepts and ideas in a very straightforward way. It’s the reason why “explainer videos” and “how-to videos” are so hugely popular.
The evolution of online content
What it all means is that the web’s first content creators – the bloggers – are going to have to grow up and adopt new tools. They are going to have to learn how to shoot a decent YouTube video, and how to take amazing Instagram photos. And they will have to keep up with new innovations – such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). So it’s not out of the question that people who are good at telling good long-form stories are going to be good at telling good short-form stories.
The big picture, of course, is that the way we consume content is evolving at a rapid rate. It’s easiest to see this with Millennials, who grew up without reading print newspapers and glossy magazines. They don’t think of TV networks, they think of discrete shows they stream on demand. They want their news as quickly as possible, and they want it all summed for them in a nice tidy package. They often only read headlines and the first paragraph.
Taking the big picture view of content
The history of the 20th century and now the 21st century, one could argue, has been a constant transformation to more and more complex ways of telling stories. Take Hollywood, for example. We’ve gone from silent movies in black-and-white to “talkies.” From there, we evolved to movies in color. That led to innovations like 3D and Dolby surround sound. And that has led to VR films. Filmmakers are still very much in demand – but their skills and tool sets have evolved.
We’re now seeing the same changes in the online world. As the world speeds up, so does the pace of content creation. And that’s opening up new possibilities for digital marketers who can recognize all these changes occurring at breakneck speed.