The strength of versioning in content creation

I’m old enough to remember coming home from school, grabbing a bite to eat and then sitting in front of the television, with its spindly legs, encased in it’s wooden box, watching the test card in shades of grey, until a 1-minute clock appeared and counted down to the announcement: “RTE anseo agaibh” – RTE is now with you. Then a grainy image appeared and I watched a programme in Irish about something I had no interest. But it was TV, there was nothing else on, and I couldn’t afford to be fussy. Fast forward to today and we’re in a very different world.

People, these days – especially the young, or the so-called “Generation Z” – have been accused of having the 7-second attention span of a goldfish. But if you drill down into the research, it’s not quite true. In the face of a constant onslaught of information and entertainment offerings, what people have is a 7-second filter that tells them if they are interested or not. The reason content looses their attention is because they’re simply not interested enough to watch any longer. And, just because your content passes the seven-second mark and finds them still watching, it’s too early to celebrate. Most people, these days, have more than one screen in front of them. If your content ceases to hold the viewer’s attention, the eyes move from the TV screen to the small screen in their hand and you’ve lost them. The task, for content creators, therefore, is to deliver content that secures and holds the attention of the audience. And then there’s one more variable thrown into the mix. Unlike my childhood television viewing experience, one size certainly does not fit all in today’s media landscape. TikTokkers are attracted to the platform by the bite-sized clips that can be swept away and replaced with a flick of the thumb or watched on automatic repeat. YouTubers tend to seek out content or to watch the next instalment from an ‘influencer’ that they follow while on-demand TV can see viewers binge-watching hours and hours of content back to back, if a series holds them enthralled. Content creators, then, have a choice. They make content for a certain demographic or they make versions of their content to fit into the different viewer desires. It’s what the customer wants and, as the old adage goes, the customer is always right.