Understanding the Drivers of Short-form Content

Short-form content is becoming king across social media. It is making its way into all types of media we consume, creating an expectation for how we digest content. Why is it dominating the social media landscape? Let’s take a look.

Why Short-form content?

Many think short-form content is so popular because of the dwindling attention spans amongst younger generations. Articles from big industry names like the Telegraph and the Guardian have published stories highlighting the drop, with most pointing to a decline from 12 to roughly 8 seconds. The problem? This narrative is a myth.

As BBC reports, there is no actual study that proves our attention spans have decreased over time. Certainly not one that is tied to generational behaviours. In fact, psychologists are now looking at attention spans at a task-dependant level. In other words, if one enjoys the content they are watching, the length of it becomes less relevant.

So if short-form content isn’t driven by attention spans, what is driving such widescale adoption?

Results Speak Louder Than Words

The real reason short-form content has taken over? It’s popular.

According to The Leap,

73% of consumers prefer to watch a short-form video to learn about a product or service. Also 59% of short-form videos are watched for 41-80% of their length, while 30% of them have an average watch rate of over 81%.

With short-form performance taking over that of others formats, it’s no wonder platforms are taking note.

An Addictive Hit

There’s something inexplicable exciting about the amount of short-form content curated to our interests. We see this hit the younger generation most with researchers finding that young people turn to social media to relieve perceived stress with each video releasing a small hit of dopamine. The addictive nature really kicks in as users wait for the next video or platform hoping it gives more joy than the last.

This cheap thrill has been compared to gambling with social media platforms adopting the same principles as gambling companies. They base their model on the idea that users will either see something they like or something they don’t and continue that way until they feel fulfilled.

Platforms Catering to the Trend

If there’s one thing that drives change, it’s competition.

Looking back to 2013, the introduction of Vine really was the start of short-form content. Despite its popularity, the platform died out in 2017. Short form video wasn’t picked back up until 2020, with the introduction of TikTok. The early success of Tiktok is what really drove the adoption of bite-sized content.

As short-form content once again threatens status quo, we’ve see more and more platforms introduce it. The past couple of years have seen Instagram follow suit with Reels. Even Youtube, originally known for long form content introduce YouTube shorts.

Social media giants adopting this short-form content reinforces a need for it. Now that everyone has it, why wouldn’t users expect it.

What it All Means

Well this pace shows no sign of slowing. Traditional media need to adapt to this need for short-form content. If they stay where they are, they will ultimately lose their audience. It’s popular for a reason.

Until consumer habits and demand shift, we will continue to see short form content rule as king.