We’re entering into the long-form content phase of the internet.

Wait, but don’t people have shorter attention spans than ever?

Maybe, but consider what some of the most successful content creators are currently producing:

The battle for our attention is fierce, but it seems that once we find something that grabs our attention, we want to dig deeper.

A major reason is how we’ve changed the ways that we’re using the platforms. Yes, we will still sometimes mindlessly scroll, but we’re also actively using social media to seek out answers to our questions and learn more about topics that we’re curious about.

According to the most recent study published on MarketingDive, Gen Z isn’t defaulting to search engines when they’re searching online. In fact,  they ranked Google as their favourite option when they’re looking for local businesses.

When we search, we’re not just looking for a quick dopamine hit. We want answers, we want to learn something, and maybe we want to dig deeper into a topic that we’ve become curious about.

This isn’t some bold prediction about future behaviour – the platforms are making major investments in longer form content because they can tell that’s what their users are looking for right now.

For example, TikTok released an update to their Creator Rewards program that gives significant and specific incentives to creators who post videos that keep people watching for longer. They’ve done that by adding a measure to the way that creators earn money called “Play Duration”. Now, instead of getting paid simply for views, creators will make more money the longer that they can keep people on their content.

In a statement on their site, TikTok said “We first introduced longer videos in 2022, and since then, interest in longer-form storytelling has only grown. So much so that the TikTok community now spends 50% of their time on TikTok watching videos longer than one minute.”

The update is literally paying people to post the type of content that will be great answers to users’ search queries.

Meanwhile, Meta reported that Reels consumption is up 20% year-over-year, owing much of that growth to better search algorithms, and longer watch times. To lean into that shift, Instagram is testing Reels formats that are as long as 10 minutes (but most people are seeing 3 minute max length).

And YouTube doesn’t need to make any changes, because it’s already the world’s second most used search engine, especially among older internet users.

So What?

I know that a lot of us have struggled with the twitchy nature of fast-paced content, and the constant struggle to keep up with the latest trends that will earn views.

This shift to longer form content is a reminder that the most valuable thing that we can be doing is to create content that people find genuinely useful.

It’s also a clear, screaming signal that search is no longer limited to search engines. If one of our goals is to show up for people who are searching for things that relate to our businesses, then Google is no longer the one-stop solution.

Each of us needs to be thinking about where our audiences are looking for, and finding answers to, questions like “what’s the best product for…” or “reviews of…” because the data is telling us very clearly that users are no longer interested in a wall of blue search engine results.