NowThis News, the one-year-old online news service, a potential heir to the New York Times or NBC Nightly News except entirely online, announced this week that it has hired Cody Johns as its first entirely Vine-driven 'videojournalist.'
Vine, of course, is the latest maybe flash in the pan or maybe $1 billion heir to Instagram (who can tell anymore?) that allows anyone to produce six-second videos with in-camera editing. That's it. Six seconds.
So all of Cody's 'reports' will be six seconds long.
Of course, in a world increasingly dominated by #Twitter and #140 characters, six seconds is still probably too long.
Do we have an increasingly shortened attention span?
You lost me. I was drifting off...
Sorry. You were saying...?
There is an inherent irony here.
One of the base parameters of 'the electronic media' used to be space. It was incredibly difficult and expensive to drive analog television waves through the air, so the amount of air time -- indeed, the number of channels was severely limited.
As a result, things like the evening news, for example, could only run 15 minutes, later expanded to 30. Shelf space was severely limited.
With the advent of cable, and now the web, shelf space is, for all practical purposes, limitless.. and free!
You would have thought that, freed from such constraints, people would have responded by expanding the scope and depth of content.
You could now publish book-length TV and videos that really got their teeth into a subject instead of just a superficial drive by.
You could use TV/video to really educate people, really go in-depth, really engage in a vast global public discourse.
But what happened?
Given the chance to go longer -- everyone opted to go shorter.
(Are you bored? Have you left?)
There was not rule of thumb that said, 'In the digital world, everything has to be shorter and simpler." This is a decision we all made collectively. We could have done anything. #140 and Vine are what we have chosen to do.
Given absolute freedom, we have opted for a kind of digital fascism.
"You WILL be limited to 140 characters."
"You WILL be limited to six seconds!"
Strangely, Chairman Mao would have approved. "You will all wear the same clothes. You will all be limited to #140 characters." The 'Great Leap Forward," so to speak.
If you want an opening to North Korea -- here it is!
And it's really tragic because the potential now exists to do some really interesting and intelligent work online,
But we are increasingly conditioning ourselves not to be able to even pay attention to anything that has depth, or intelligence.
(I was going to write about a great series I saw last night on PBS on Hispanics in America, but I can see already that even mentioning PBS is going to cause you to yawn and tune out.)
Many years ago, when we first launched NY1, we were the very first 24-hour local news channel. And suddenly we had, well, if not endless shelf space, 24 hours a day to play with. We COULD have produced a lot of in-depth documentaries about New York, or local political issues or lots of other stuff. We had the time. But Jerry Nachman, who had come from the New York Post, decreed that no item would run more than 1:20 (that would be one minute and 20 seconds, not one hour and 20 minutes). Today, of course, one minute twenty seconds is a lifetime compared to Vine.