This is the first in an occasional and cathartic series where we pick one of the most irritating things at large in media at the moment. It could be anything; a word, a phrase, a person, some research, a trend or even an ad (probably not a telly one obviously as they are all beyond reproach). There will be no itch that won’t be scratched, no eyelash beyond the probe of our media fingers; anything is fair game. What is the point of a blog, frankly, if you can’t use it to swat the bees in your bonnet from time to time?
To kick off I offer you ‘long-form video’, used recently by YouTube to describe their recent tie-up with TV broadcasters which will finally get some proper telly programmes legally onto their platform.
People in media have a pathological need to abuse, water down, neuter, twist, murder or mutilate language to the edge of reason and beyond, right into the choppy waters of lunacy. ‘Long-form video’ is a perfect example of this, as used in a Media Week headline this week. It takes a perfectly lovely concept – television – and hammers it flat into bland, technical nonsense.
There is certainly a recognised format of online video; those little windows with moving images in them on text-based websites – that’s online video. More like digital outdoor than TV. Short user-generated a/v, the sort of thing YouTube depended on until now, are also video. We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when TV goes online it doesn’t cease to be TV and become something else like ‘long-form video’. Do we say online video is short-form TV? No, that would be silly. Is watching a film online better described as watching ‘ even-longer-form video’? No. Ask the average consumer what they are doing when they watch Emmerdale, Peep Show or CSI via the web. They will almost all say “I’m watching TV on my computer/the internet.” No conflict there at all between the content and the distribution technology.
There are plenty of very solid reasons why we should kick ‘long-form video’ straight into the bins. TV is a shorter, quicker, neater and instantly understandable word for everyone on the planet. It is what real people call it. Even when they’re watching YouTube, if you ask them what it is they’re watching on YouTube, if it is proper TV they’ll say so.
Creating jargon can often be a means of taking ownership, of being a bit elite and smart-arse about things. We shouldn’t tolerate it. We don’t have to reinvent perfectly round and smoothly running wheels just to make them sound more complicated, new or thrilling than they already are.