Long Form Content In A Short Form World

We want to go deep.

I just spend 95 minutes listening to Howard Stern interview Sarah Jessica Parker and I didn’t hear the whole thing. How did he keep my interest in a short attention span economy?

That’s a lie. We’ve just got incredible shit detectors. We want nothing but great, we’ve got endless time for great, we’re pushing the button for great and when we find it…WE STAY THERE!

How else to explain the binge-watching phenomenon. People want more, you’ve just got to serve them the right thing.

Howard Stern used to be crippled by terrestrial radio, beholden to time breaks and advertisers, a format so moribund there’s no wonder there are no breakthroughs. He went to Sirius for the freedom, little did we know he would become the new Barbara Walters, at even greater length. You change the format and you’ve got no idea what will result. The 33 1/3 LP gave us the concept album, but that’s an expired paradigm, who can utilize the new distribution media to their advantage? So far, only Drake amongst the superstars. He knows it’s about a steady spew of product, that the relationship is key, that it’s not about spending time reaching the last customer on earth but satiating the core, who will become indoctrinated and spread the word.

I watched “Square Pegs.” Loved the breakthrough in “Honeymoon In Vegas.” Really enjoyed “Sex and the City.” I’m not infatuated with Sarah Jessica, yet I want to know who everybody is, their victories, their struggles, we’re all in this together and we’re looking for clues that we’re all right, that we’re all screwed up and have more questions than answers. She talked about being intimated by true movie stars, that she’s anxious for two weeks on a new flick. That made me feel better about my own spilkes. Everybody’s projecting an image of being calm and collected, but that’s a fraud. We’re all uptight.

So as the usual suspects have become about the hit and run, selling us in ever more bite-sized portions, the winners in the new economy are those who stretch it out. This is why TV has eclipsed movies. We want to go deeper. Ad rates for link-bait keep going down, but if you want to advertise on the Bill Simmons podcast, if you want to tie up with the winners, you’re going to pay a multiple, because their audience tunes in, their listeners care.

Sure, you have to build trust. Sure, you can’t wander and expect people to follow you willy-nilly. But if you’re a pro and have built an audience it will follow you anywhere. And it is about the work and not the penumbra. We’ve been sold social media nonsense. That everybody’s a brand and if you’re not advertising, spreading the word, you’ll never make it. No, it’s about doing the work and letting your fans spread the word.

We live in an alienating society, with too many marketing messages. We’re overwhelmed. We want to be soothed. And nothing soothes us more than long form content. As society goes ever faster, we want to slow down, we want to dig in deep. Wander into the wilderness and we may follow you, as opposed to trying to give us what we want, you usually have no idea what we want. I had no interest in the secondary players in Howard’s canon, then I listened and got to know them and now I worry about Richard Christy’s drinking, Sal’s marriage, focus groups will never tell you this, they’re snapshots, whereas truth evolves over the long term, we’re malleable characters, who knows what will grip us.

Mastery is everything. We want to practice, we want to get good, we want to know. You can’t do much with a few bits and bites. But when you build an edifice, you can live in it.

This is the essence of Howard Stern’s breakthrough, the long form interview. And every time I decry that he’s just part of the endless promotional gravy train he’ll elicit nuggets from those I thought I didn’t care about. Like Kate Hudson’s biological dad not knowing her children, having no real contact with her at all. You don’t have to be famous to understand this, only human.

Somehow Howard has figured out the future. And he morphed to do it. Today’s show barely resembles the shows of yore. The Sybian’s been banished. And this is less about cleaning up than evolving. You experiment, you build on your skills, you find out what works, you get comfortable. And when you’ve put in the hours you’ll find people care.

That’s the true long tail. Not the money involved, but that there are so many rabbit holes with avid fans. The internet has allowed us to go deep. Some are getting rich, others are just getting the naches. Nothing makes you feel better than helping people. And when you display your wisdom online…

Your life is complete.

Don’t expect anybody to care at first. But when you get the hang of it, when you get good, after not giving up, most people give up, after pivoting to what works, you’ll find you’ve built an audience that will follow you anywhere.

Because they want to know you.

Phoniness is dead.

Depth is everything.

Display your hopes, dreams and warts. Your story is important if you want to make it in today’s media world. We not only want you to report the news, we want to know who you are. The world is shrinking. You can’t hold it at arm’s length. Sure, you move towards the center and you get burned by the heat, i.e. the hate, but every reward comes with a downside.

They’re jealous of your success. Which you toiled for years for.

Ignore the naysayers. Soldier on. Give me something I can sink my teeth into.

I’m hungry.

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