Consumption of short-form video, or short video format (SVF), has been growing in India, and it is becoming one of the fastest growing storytelling formats. An estimated 60+ percent of internet users now watch SVF stories.

According to Mehak Kasbekar, Editor-in-Chief at Brut India, data from Tubular Labs shows that in the 90 days up to 14 March, 77 percent of content viewed on YouTube was less than two minutes in length and 63 percent was less than 60 seconds. In fact, content less than 60 seconds was viewed a staggering 535 billion times on YouTube.

YouTube, traditionally a long-form content platform, is now counting on short-form content for its growth, Kasbekar said during WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media India conference held in March in New Delhi. “Podcasts are doing really great,” she said. “Also, Spotify recently introduced a feature [Clips] for artists to create short-form videos.”

So why are these social media platforms scrambling to compete in this space? According to Kasbekar, it’s all about Gen Z. “A lot of evolution is happening very quickly across platforms, as Gen Z and their tastes evolve,” she said.

And why are we seeing growth in SVF specifically?

“It’s because attention spans are shortening,” Kasbekar said. “At this point, it is about 2.7 seconds, and for Gen Z it is even shorter” she said.

According to Kasbekar, 59% of the short-form videos are watched for 41-80% of their length. This makes short form videos an effective means to tell a story.

“Once you have their [audience] attention, they are likely to stick with you through the short video. That means you can give them the entire message and not just a gist of it,” said Kasbekar. “But for parents it’s not great news, because the average time spent on screens and social media is going up. We have to find a way around it.”

Delivering the content Gen-Z wants   

In India, the average time spent on social media is about 2.6 hours. This number could be in double digits for a teenager. And a country-wise break-up could be even more.

As of 2021, millennials and Gen Z made up 52 percent of India’s population. The global average is around 47 percent. This explains why everyone wants to tap into the Gen-Z.

“At Brut, 89 percent of our viewers are below 34; among them, about 43 percent are between 13 and 24; and 46 percent are between 24 and 34. We have to play catch up with the Gen Z,” Kasbekar said.

Gen Z lives in a digital-first world, and we must know how they are shopping, what they are sharing, what their entertainment is, how they communicate, and so on.

For them, social media platforms are the new search engines, and they are taking advice from them.

According to the World Economic Forum, some of the “passion points” for Gen Z and millennials that they care deeply about include:

Inspiring people
Entertainment and pop culture
Environment and sustainability
Empowering women

At Brut India, 89 percent of its audience is below 34

Kasbekar said that the Gen Z were brought up in an uncertain environment that is also fast paced and changing quickly, and their mindsets are tailored according to this.

“At Brut India, we know how to talk to them, we let them think for themselves. They are highly opinionated. That’s why they want to be informed as well,” Kasbekar said, adding that they are not reading newspapers or watching television channels, they do not understand the language in which it’s been spoken, but they are looking for authentic information.

Data from Redseer Strategy Consultants shows that the revenue for Indian short-form video apps is expected to be around $8-12 billion by 2030. And the revenue is spread across three segments such as advertising, video commerce and live gifting.

Why SVF is popular

“Humour is a huge part of SVF. It brings out creativity,” Kasbekar said. “It can also help people consume serious news without them realising it’s serious news. The idea is to speak to them [Gen-Z] in their language.”

Another area where SVF excels is in beating decision fatigue.

She added that SVF is able to communicate what’s happening around you in a short duration. And clubbing it with authenticity means it’s much more appealing to the audience.

With Indian viewers engaging in short content, continuous innovation has helped publishers deliver unique content to viewers based on their preferences and priorities.

Tips for getting the most from SVF

Although SVF consumption has been leapfrogging, it should be done right to reap benefits.

As Kasbekar explained: “Our strength lies in choosing a story. And what you don’t choose to highlight, speaks volumes about the kind of publisher you are.

“It doesn’t work if you are picking up everything and anything trending for the sake of getting views. Scripting for video is underrated, but really important. It looks like a 60-second video, but the amount of work that goes into getting it right is important,” she said.

Kasbekar cited these key elements to producing good short form videos:

Creating relatable content
Scripting for video
Understanding algorithms
Paying attention to popular trends, and
Staying consistent

Another key aspect is to be authentic to the community. It means publishers must deliver things that matter to the given community.

Evolving with the changing atmosphere is also crucial to deliver relatable content.

Kasbekar added that emphasising on content quality over quantity also plays a huge role.

“Our competitors upload close to 100 to 200 videos a day,” she said. “We have put out four every day since we began. And we are still number one. We aim for zero error in our content.”

Branded content an essential component

In terms of its business model, Brut India is largely based on branded content, Kasbekar said.

“I’m proud of the branded content work we do. It’s telling good stories,” she said, adding that the publisher only chooses brands that are cruelty-free, environment-friendly and ethical, all qualities Gen Z demands today.

Asked by a participant whether SVF would kill the essence of news, because it is “not detailed and could miss out on key facts,” Kasbekar said SVFs are not solely intended to grab viewers’ attention and the length of the video depends on the selection of topics.

“At the crux of it, you have to keep in mind the story you are choosing to tell, and identify which format suits best,” she said. “You cannot do a documentary in 59 seconds. It needs the time and research that it is supposed to get.”

However, for topics that are very important, but time-bound, doing a short-format video and following it up with a long format can help.

“I will say it’s important to give a lot of thought to how you’re telling a story. Strong storytelling is also paramount for audience retention,” she said.

And Kasbekar sees opportunities for long format videos to both increase revenues and the subscriber base as well.

“When we are thinking about things creatively, there is going to be evolution,” she said, and noted how radio made a comeback in the form of podcasts, which could be applied to long-form videos as well.

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