Verizon Goes For The Short Form

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Verizon has just made a very contrarian move. As other telcos around the world are buying into traditional long form TV and investing in sports properties, the American telco giant has gone and bought venerable old AOL.

This reignited a debate that I have participated in for nearly two decades – what works best in internet TV – long form or short form ?

I long argued that long form would win over short form, and I think overall I was right. The reality is that people value access above all, so a live football game on mobile is better than no football game, but not as good as a football game on a 55″ screen.

The idea of developing specific content for specific screens is a rather dubious one – the screen is smaller, so the attention span of the user is shorter is totally disproved by the number of people I see watching video on the commuter train back home.

However, there are arguments for constructing short form content. They include subject, where certain genres such as music, comedy and some sports lend themselves to short form. Commercialisation is another reason – it’s easier to place short ads in between short content and experiments that I have run in the past show that cutting up content into bite sized pieces of 3 – 6 minutes and showing short ads (never longer than 30 secs) in between is the way to optimise an online schedule. Finally, a younger demographic has always favoured shorter forms in general and this prevails.

So, the logic that Verizon put out for their $4.4bn purchase has some merit. AOL is a factory for short form content in many forms, including the written word, and there is clear evidence from services such as YouTube, BuzzFeed and AOL’s own HuffPost service that this works well.

It will be very interesting to see how this is packaged by Verizon with the remainder of their quad play services.