By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

Politics II: Short form content and politics

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who read.” - Dr. Seuss

Recently, there were several news articles in international media about some researchers’ warnings on the continuing and unabated rise of short form content and its effects. According to standard definition, “short-form content is any type of content your audience can easily and quickly consume, whether they’re reading, watching, or listening.” Examples of short form contents are the TikTok and YouTube short reels which are viewed daily by a large number of people on social media. In its written form whether in social media posts or email, short form content should have 1,000 or fewer words.

Short form content is nothing new. When the famous children’s show Sesame Street first debuted in 1969, it popularized the use of short, colorful, lively and often funny segments to teach young kids about math and the alphabet among others. The show’s aim, in the words of one of its producers, was to “educate poor preschool children while holding their shorter attention span with salient subliminal stimuli.”

Even after a few decades, Generation X individuals like me still remember these short repeating segments and the lessons they taught. The advent of new technology and social media platforms such as TikTok, however, have taken short form content to new heights. Short form content is now the norm in social media and has made inroads in research, learning, marketing and politics.

Researchers now say that this continuous exposure to short-form videos have irreversibly shortened people’s already short- attention span even further. There are many studies on the effects of this short form addiction to concentration especially on tasks that require longer undivided attention to accomplish. Harmful or not, it appears that short form content will be a part of society for years to come.

In the world of politics, recent elections worldwide have shown the rising impact of short form content especially in political short videos or reels. Social media was full of these short political reels all over the world in all its various forms.

Many are now predicting that short form content in politics will also affect other aspects of political campaigning. In particular, face to face political campaigning will now have to adjust to the new realities of engaging a voting population with extremely short attention spans.

Having each candidate give speeches is a standard practice in political activities. Sometimes, the candidates follow time limit rules for their speeches. Unfortunately, most of the times many politicians give lengthy speeches. One of the longest political speeches I heard was from a gubernatorial candidate in North Luzon who was able to talk for six hours straight.

At the Center for Alternative Election Reforms (CAER), a political strategy think tank group, a research team is experimenting on several models of town hall meetings using short form content- related techniques.

In these sessions, multiple speakers with short and lively speeches using video, music and other tools combined with short message chunks are being employed to test message penetration and staying power.

In essence, there are common elements which are apparently needed for the new type of short form political speeches. Other than speeches being short, they must: a) have a starting hook; 2) appeal to emotion; 3) use video and entertainment; 4) stick to one central message; 5) use narratives; 6) sound plausibly true; and 7) use simple language.

With this rise of short form content in campaigning, election operators must still remember that the core message within any short form platform is still very important. How do you craft messages that can still be effectively conveyed through short form content? Ah! That is a story that can be tackled another day.

This is my short form oblique observation.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.