Most irritating things in media: ‘long-form video’. No. 1 in an occasional series

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.


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  • Jeremy Lee

    I do agree Tess although I think the broadcasters are not without blame – they love a bit of jargon when it suits them and creates some air of magic, particularly when it comes to bamboozling advertisers – blipverts, informercials, AFP, DALs, mini-DALs, red button, green button, long-form advertising – the list is endless.
    And as for all the terms around digital TV – well it’s in danger of obscuring that it is, well, television.

  • John Gallen

    Well said Tess, as always.

    Here’s another irritant… why is the National Geographic site called “” when all you can see are clips or ads… nothing more than a show reel. Where’s the ‘TV’?


    Great article Tess !

    What an absolute NONSENSE too ! Youtubers hve a famous acronym that describes accurately the average attention span of an online video sharing web site surfer

    TL:DW = Too Long : Didn’t Watch !

    Youtubes old school DIRECTOR accounts permitted any old punter with a web cam to bore the living bejayzers out of you for up to 30 minutes, surely that is LONG FORM VIDEO is it not ?

    Their standard accounts permit videos of just over 10 minutes in duration to be uploaded, most of which can be described as TL:DW’s too

    I think the bottom line is this, anything greater than 2 minutes in length on any video-sharing website is not going to hold most peoples attention

  • Graeme Wood

    Completely agree Tess, although playing devil’s advocate for a minute the reason the ad industry labels TV differently when consumed through other screens is probably because the ad model is different, and that’s the lens we view media though. Real people on the other hand are interested in the content, which is still TV wherever it is watched.

    Any chance this could be a more than occasional series: I’m looking forward to ‘Digital’ already. Can I nominate the term ‘Consumer’ as episode 3?


    Before you know it, you’ll be known as Chief Exec of the Offline Video Advertising Bureau. 😉


    Jez: To quote that guy off the telly “You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.” 😉

    John: Not sure; will ask them. But I’m guessing that the clips come from and promote real telly.

    Sean: Love the TL:DW acronym. I now have a phrase for all those Oliver Stone films I’ve fallen asleep in half-way through.

    Graeme: Good point. We do make a distinction ourselves calling one broadcast TV and the other online TV. The commercial opportunities are slightly different but they have an awful lot in common. What is a pre-roll but an ad break frankly? We did some research earlier this year into online TV and many viewers said they expected ad breaks (their words) in the middle of programmes and they were perfectly happy about it. When the IAB’s Video Standards Council brought its first set of guidelines recommending very short pre-rolls it clearly wasn’t thinking about online TV. We think online TV advertising is different from online video for three reasons: it’s likely to be watched full-screen, viewing is more relaxed and settled, sound is certain to be on. That, plus its clickability, makes it the premium adspace online, and also justifies its premium vs broadcast TV.

    Digital rant will be with you soon. Consumer? Mmm, you might have to get your own blog for that one.

    James: Do you know, it has a certain ring to it. But I’m quite happy to be top cheerleader for TV Everywhere and Anywhere in a totally technology neutral way.

  • Jack Wallington

    Hi Tess, the IAB Video Council (which includes the majority of long form video providers) does actually say that long form content should be treated in similar ways to on TV, as such it can handle the same length of advertising. It’s on this page: The on-demand nature changes things to linear broadcast of course. You’ve raised good points about jargon, everyone is guilty of this though and the important thing is for everyone to use the same language. The online video market uses ‘long form’ and ‘short form’ because there is a difference when advertising around the two. For planners and buyers making the split clear is a practical necessity.


    Hi Jack. Yes, I appreciate that you have revised your original set of guidelines – I think in reaction to some of the comments of TV companies who belong to the IAB. Might be wrong, but either way it was very welcome.


    …and should have added, Jack, that on-demand-ness and interactivity are not properties exclusive to online TV. Lots of those phrases that wind up Jeremy listed at the top have those qualities too and so does all time-shifted viewing via digital recorders – or even the odd VHS machine that’s still around.