Are we heading for an era in which moments are becoming as important as stories?
This question was prompted by an article in the current Fast Company about Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti. I'm not a fan of Buzzfeed's clickbait headlines, but that doesn't mean there's nothing worth learning from their success. Here are some of the key points from the article:
- Instead of trying to draw people to their own website, they go to where people are already, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.
- They tailor their content to each social channel
- They use data extensively to keep learning what works and what doesn't - when something works, they build on it, often in other platforms (e.g., an article on "30 Awkward Moments Every Short Girl Understands" became a scripted YouTube video and a cartoon that appeared on Facebook).
- Everyone at BuzzFeed Motion Pictures is multi-hyphenated--they write, direct, produce and do each one better because they've had experience with the others.
IS IT THE MOMENT FOR MOMENTS?
BuzzFeed has made more than 7000 videos in the last three years. The head of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures is Ze Frank. He told the magazine, "The modern opportunity necessarily means that you have to question almost every one of those decisions [about how to make videos]. Things like, 'Should we be talking about story as the prime vehicle for video versus a moment or a character?"
One of their series is called You Do You. it focuses on four female characters but, the article points out, "the narrative arc that's woven through the episodes...is secondary at best." When they offered a package of the twelve episodes for $2.99 via iTunes, the series was number one on the TV series chart.
Each episode is three to four minutes long. You can watch them on YouTube--here's the link to the first one: you do you episode one. Basically, it's the women talking about their fears. (Is it just me, or should the director have told them to talk more slowly?)
Episode Four sees them driving to a wedding and talking about whether or not they're successful enough. The pacing has improved but it's a conversation spiced up visually with some cutaways illustrating what they're saying.
I'm not saying that moments are killing stories. That would be too BuzzFeedy. But as writers, it might be good to be aware that the popularity of the short form has consequences for how and what we write.