Mobile Will Restore Brevity to Media

Motorola Xoom tablet

If social media endangered the 30 second spot, then mobile media will restore brevity to content creation. Smaller screens, less convenient input methods for text, the ability to create user generated visual media on the fly, and an evolving series of socially empowered mobile media will challenge content creators to serve a new reader. Long blog posts and articles are best read on computers and tablets, while short videos, photos and brief updates will be preferred on smartphones.

Time seems to be on mobile’s side. As 4G enters the marketplace, lightening fast wireless broadband will become an empowering technology. By 2014, mobile Internet use is expected to surpass desktop use. Consider that wireless empowered smartphones and tablets will continue to drive down the digital divide. Africa’s entire information infrastructure expects to leapfrog landline telecommunications and computers.

Serving this growing content market is not as easy as creating an app for that. As Pew research reveals, there is an app gap: “…almost half of U.S. adults get local news on mobile devices [47%], just 1 in 10 use apps to do so.” And it’s not like more folks don’t have smartphones. The app gap exists in spite of three in 10 Americans owning smartphones.

Mobile friendly web sites continue to be a critical component of success. That means rethinking content for multiple types of media will become more and more important. This is not something to sweep under the rug until a later date.

Media will need to become briefer, tighter, and should be built with the expectation of less feedback from users on mobile devices. What does brief content look like? Short videos under two minutes, microblogs with shorter content, pictures, applications, smart use of text messaging, all with an expectation that input beyond two or three sentences is too much for the average smartphone.

Going back to the Pew Research, of the above mobile news readers, 15% use Twitter vs. 4% of the news consumers. It’s no coincidence that twitter is a 140 character medium, one of the shortest media forms out there (and ideal for text message updates).

Consider the inner copywriter challenged to achieve brevity. Restoring the KISS principle, Keep It Simple… to content will be good after a period full of bells and whistles. After all, waxing poetic is the luxury of long form media. One screen’s worth of content. Can you get the job done in that short of an opportunity?


  • Interesting piece Geoff.

    I completely agree that mobile will restore brevity to content – but I wonder how detrimental the effect of this shift will be in the broader sense.

    Do you feel that the drive towards reducing written news to the 30 second spot in certain regards steps around the point of having written news in the first place? I have always believed that the in the moment news on TV (most broadly) does the job of telling people what has happened and is happening. The written word has always been a powerful way of communicating the commentary – getting across why something is happening in the first place.

    If Twitter is the journalistic equivalent of the end game in “The Crystal Maze”, with stories blowing around consumers and them picking those that they can reach as much as those that are valuable, is there a risk that people will lose interest in why because they are spending all of their time consuming what and where?

    • I think we will have layers of intelligence, similar to a funnel. As you can tell, the top of the funnel si not very informed, really just grasping buzz words. But I think the deeper you dive, the better it will be for those who are digitally literate and can understand the data they are consuming.

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  • Totally agree. I can the time coming very soon where the most relevant and engaging content is delivered to consumers smart phones or tablets. I’m a fundraiser and this switch to copy light, visual communications means I have to sharpen my skills and find the simplest way to articulate why someone should give. Great post.

    • I kind of feel like social media people treat the mobile web the same way that politicians treat the deficit. Not so smart. Good to see you are on the ball, too!

  • I think we can get the job done in that short amount of time (Though often I struggle to keep my content short). On most occasions I only take time to skim longer posts, and in many cases I have not missed the intent or key takeaways. If we don’t try to think out every angle on behalf of readers and viewers then holding onto brevity becomes much easier. The irony is we also become more appealing as content generators when we can accomplish that.

    Personally, I feel like mobile and the challenges that it brings along for the ride is a great partner. If I can master the skill of brevity, I can actually put out much more consistent content because each post or video will not take as long to create. Again though, that is assuming mastery of the skill.

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