Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why long is better than short

In a world of sound bites where everything needs to be in short easily remembered sound bites, there's a common thought that everything needs to be short. Weather that's copy on a website, a TV series, a song, book, film, take your pick.

But all this flies in the face of the facts. Long things when engaging, interesting, artistic, of merit and relevant are pretty much always more appreciated over time, where as sound bites are just that and are quickly forgotten, there are notable exceptions, but most of those actually re-enforce the rule of long because they are made to entice you into the main long element.

I'm listening to The Stone Roses re-mastered on Spotify at the moment and one of my favourite tracks is Fools Gold, it's also a firm favourite of most Stone Roses fans. At 9.52 minutes for some people it's over long, but for a fan who's head starts bobbing from the opening notes it's just not long enough! In a similar vein Stairway to Heaven and Bohemian Rhapsody are stupidly long but and untouchable to their fans. Can you say that about 3 minutes of Lady GaGa?

Same applies to loads of other things which delight and amaze people, you try telling a fan of Lord of the Rings the films and books are too long and difficult. Try saying that watching 24 takes too much time!

In sport even. The World Snooker Championships takes two weeks to complete with some sessions going on into the middle of the next morning. The Ashes and test cricket take 5 days to play one game which may then end in a draw. American Football takes forever to finish as does baseball.

In art, is the Sistine Chapel ceiling too big and detailed? Jackson Pollock paintings too long?

In advertising, why do you think some infomercials are a whole 3 minutes long? And that long engaging copy in direct mail letters works better than short copy? Because it tells a story which is interesting and captivating to the customers who are disposed to buy the products. It's not trying to convince every viewer to buy, how could it? No it works hard on the relevant people and converts them.

What all these have in common is a craftsmanship which takes a long time to perfect, it's then perfectly articulated which makes it enduring, relevant and in a way addictive.

So when some one says that things need to be short because people don't have the attention span then they're clearly looking at the population in general. Fine if you want a quick hit and disappear.

But if you want to stay around for a long time better make things well crafted, interesting, relevant and if its needed long.

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