Last week I attended a conference on slow media organised by Bath Spa University. Not knowing about slow media I attended with a very open mind.
I was hooked after the opening talk by Carl Honore, author of In praise of slow. He just happened to have given a TED talk on the subject back in 2005. Carl was very entertaining and made the point that humans need to participate in activities at the ‘right speed’ for the activity e.g. reading a book versus speed reading a book.
He argues that our need for speed hasn’t made us any happier. His approach – slow down and focus on quality – give tasks the time they need. Slowing down leads us to produce better quality work.
In terms of the media, two speakers raised some interesting points about slowness and quality.
Justin Lewis, professor of communication at Cardiff Journalism School, pondered why journalists focus on speed over accuracy. He said that journalists tended to focus on the need to be first with the news at the expense of accuracy. At the the time of the conference we had the tragedy of the Germanwings plane crash and you could see that the rolling news had little to say in the first couple of days as facts were hard to come by.
Lewis also questioned the traditional news story structure of telling the who, what why, when and how at the top of a story and then explaining more as you read further into the story. This, he said, was the equivalent of giving the reader the punchline and then explaining the story.
He said that journalists should focus on more narrative storytelling techniques and cited research (I didn’t get the name of it) in which the same story was told to a group of people in two ways – traditional and narrative. The readers were then asked to recall facts from the story. There was better recall of facts from the narrative version of the story.
He said that, like the slow food movement, slow media was concerned with the quality of the ingredients (content), the pace at which it is consumed and the quality of conversation around it. He outlined the seven elements of slow media:
- Exchange (conversation)
- Spacial/social proximity
Joerg shared some findings into consumers’ feelings about slow (he researched 4,500 people in Germany – results are currently still in German). One conclusion from the research is that publishers should think about those users who do want to consume content more slowly. They do exist but publishers aren’t currently thinking about them as they race to make content shorter.
I interviewed Joerg about slow and his research (see video below).
In answer to the question, ‘Should we embrace slow media?’ I think it is worth looking at the growth of platforms such as Medium which are trying to encourage and enable longer form, more reflective writing. Indeed, Medium is looking at metrics such as attention time as a measure of the meaning and impact of content. Why? Because they feel it matters.
Some of your users and customers will want higher quality more indepth content so think about how you can add that into your content mix.