The Medium Changes the Preferred Format

Here’s a thought-provoking question: How many people see the Academy-award short film nominees each year? I don’t know the answer, but I’ll bet it’s a tiny fraction of the number who’ve watched the top short films on YouTube. While the studios were worried about piracy of full length feature films, they missed the economic opportunity that was implicit in the fact that every new medium changes the type and format of content that becomes popular.

We see this at O’Reilly in the changing mix of our bestsellers. Many of our popular series, like our programming cookbooks or the Hacks series, are actually collections of shorts, rather than full-length connected narratives. Each cookbook entry, or each hack, could just as well be a web page, and the book is a playlist from a longer database of selections.

I think we’ll see this phenomenon all over publishing: the rebirth of short-form content and collections, with the user in charge of the playlist.