3 Short-Form Content Tips From News App Circa

In a world where sites like Instagram, Tumblr and BuzzFeed capture an increasing amount of consumer attention, what do brands need to know to make short-form content creation second nature?

Media is Power posed this question to Circa CEO and co-founder Matt Galligan for his unique insight. Circa is a news app featuring top stories broken down to their “essential points” — for a mobile-friendly format.

Content Creation With Mobile Top of Mind
“As mobile devices are used seamlessly, throughout the day, they’ve become the consumer’s primary media device,” said Galligan. “The consumer gets his news through this device. This news is not static; stories evolve rapidly. But the article is still the primary format and delivery mechanism for content. The growing impact mobile is having on consumer media consumption habits requires a new format.”

This thinking yielded Circa’s storylines, giving users a quick read on top news items. The app’s follow feature makes it simple for users to revisit a storyline in the future. Circa’s editorial staff also annotates its storylines — adding facts as the story evolves while editing out facts that have become irrelevant.

Based on this new approach to content creation, Galligan offers brands three tips for creating short-form content.

1. Consider the Pieces of the Whole: Brands must consider how their target audience consumes content. Can the content be consumed quickly and easily? Can it be consumed in pieces, at any pace? Is annotation an opportunity? Can consumer engagement help drive the story? Short-form content forces the need for these questions.

Galligan is quick to note that these questions are not addressed by responsive design. “Responsive design is a new approach to serving up content in an old format. Taking a new approach to serving up content in an old format is one reason why Instagram gained prominence while Flickr faded into the background. Flickr’s app merely served up its Web experience in a mobile environment.”

The key is to consider the whole story — and how the story’s format might serve it up in easy-to-consume, snack-sized pieces.

2. Rely on Man — Then Math: While algorithms power a variety of aggregation sites, human intervention is a point of difference for Circa. Galligan thinks it could be the same for brands.

“Silicon Valley’s idea that you can build a perfect algorithm for news has potential, but it’s not possible right now. It takes empathy to determine which story element is most relevant to an audience. It takes people, not automated processes like aggregation, to deliver the best stories.”

While fast data and analytics should inform a brand’s approach to stories, and then improve it over time, this complements storytelling. Brands must know their consumer well to master this mix of art and science.

3. Be Fast in Helping Consumers Slow Down: Compared to the daily news, brands operate on a much slower timeline. So it’s no surprise that most brands need to create content more quickly — especially as marketers fixate on trends like real-time marketing. But Galligan recommends keeping speed in perspective when it comes to content delivery.

“Twitter’s point of difference for content delivery is speed. Brands can’t own this — and they shouldn’t. Twitter reports of the Boston Marathon attack, made in real-time, created a lot of initial misinformation. That real-time picture was inaccurate.”

Brands need to understand the value each piece of content provides a consumer and how speed plays into this value. Ease of consumption, timing, relevance and speed of delivery are some of the factors to consider.

The Content Spectrum
In discussing short- and long-form content, Galligan reminds us that they are part of a spectrum and not exclusive from each other. “The Economist and The Wall Street Journal are just two examples of content platforms offering consumers a mix of short- and long-form content. It’s not about length, it’s about recognizing your consumer’s medium of choice to help make your story even easier for him to consume.”

Consumer Habits Drive Brand Focus
Mobile is a common thread woven consistently throughout the consumer’s day. It is a seamless, always-on utility that bridges the online and in-store experience for brands.

In making short-form content creation second nature, Galligan suggests brands take a broader view that includes mobile. “Research shows consumer’s mobile media consumption will only become more significant. That said, if mobile is a consumer’s primary device, shouldn’t it be the brand’s primary focus?”

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David Germano
David Germano

David is the VP of Content Marketing for Empower Media Marketing, and runs Empower's Content Marketing division, Magnetic Content Studios. For more than 14 years, David has been helping brands develop sustained content marketing strategies and operate like media to build their own audiences. David is often speaking on the topic, and is a guest contributor to Content Marketing Institute.