Ever heard of Twenty20?
It’s a form of that quintessentially English game, cricket. Except that it’s watchable – well, depending on your proclivity for watching team sports, that is…
The problem with cricket as a spectator sport is that for most of the time not a lot happens. The game can take a long time. A VERY long time. The longest form of cricket, known as Test Cricket, can last up to five days – and the match can still end in a tie. Maybe it’s called “Test Cricket” because it tests the patience of the spectators…
Mindful of this, and keen to introduce cricket to a younger audience (and to TV viewers), in 2003 the England and Wales Cricket Board introduced a new form of the sport called Twenty20 cricket . It’s kind of like watching normal cricket, but with your finger on the fast-forward button. The gameplay – or the “content” – is streamlined and concentrated so that it’s over ( sic ) in around a couple of hours.
Adapting For A New Kind Of AudienceThe popularity of Twenty20 cricket is astounding. Spectator stands are frequently packed to the gills, TV rights sell for millions, there’s music, ad breaks, cheerleaders and concerts. It’s as though cricket suddenly hit puberty, discovered sex and drugs and roick’n’roll and invited all of its friends over for a mad party while its parents were away for the weekend.
In short, Twenty20 cricket was created for a modern-day audience. One with short attention spans that are looking for instant content gratification. Twenty20 is for the 140 character Tweeting, Facebook-updating, Google search-autofill generation who shut down if a TV ad lasts longer than 30 seconds.
TV ad producers have become the masters of delivering information on “fast-forward.” Have you noticed how the duration of TV commercials has shortened over the last decade or so? It’s not, as you may think, because airtime’s got more expensive, since in real terms it hasn’t. It’s because audience’s attention spans have decreased. A combination of a gazillion channels and the invention of the remote control has meant that unless you (the content provider) can keep me (the recipient) interested with appropriate information; then I’m going to zap around until something better grabs my attention.
Shorter, Sharper ContentToday, TV shows themselves have speeded-up. Jerky camerawork, fast editing cuts, dramatic soundtracks and flashing lights reflect a change in scripting where the storyline is broken-down into smaller, easily-digestible chunks of information. Again, they have adapted their content strategy to the expectations of their audience, maintaining their attention.
So, how does the above affect the way that you do business, and market your value proposition? How does the example of Twenty20 cricket impact the way you promote your business value to your target audience? Well, substitute “script” or “storyline” for “content strategy ” and it’s clear that your “top-level” information needs to be short, sharp and to-the-point to get attention. Customers no longer have the patience to wade through endless overly-embellished prose and corporate rhetoric. Your content needs to hit them hard by hitting them in short bursts, over time.
That’s not to say that there’s no longer a place for more lengthy material. A ten-minute demonstration video or 2,000-word White Paper might be just what your customers want. However, such material should a level beneath the glitz and glamour: Your in-depth content should be crafted – and delivered – to support the flashing lights and loud music, rather than seeking to dominate (or replace) it.
The way that your customers consume information has changed considerably, even when compared to a few years ago. You’re trying to get them to watch a five-day test match, when all they want is Twenty20.
That’s just not cricket, old chap.