Writing for your business? Take a tip from Netflix

Your copy should be long enough and no longer.

When I was a child, I would be forced/encouraged to write thank you letters to relatives after my birthday or Christmas. These letters always followed the same, brutally-short structure and my mum would always urge me to slip in an extra paragraph, for the sake of “politeness”.

I hated that extra paragraph. To me, it was a clearly shoehorned-in piece of waffle (usually about my pet hamster) that detracted from my ‘message’: thank you.

Yet today, I still find myself resisting the temptation to add filler to the copy that I write for companies.

Yes, a certain word count can look nicer on the page. It might even be more consistent with the rest of the website, but is it really, really needed? Does it aid comprehension, reinforce the selling points or help to build the brand? If so, it can stay. If not, it must go.

Why so ruthless? Two reasons:

1) Audiences today are bombarded with marketing comms and attention spans are shrinking. Generally speaking, the shorter your messages, the more chance they have of hitting home.

2) In the digital age, we no longer have to write to fit the fixed physical constructs of, say, a printed page or a 30 second TV commercial.

Take Netflix, for example. They produce ground-breaking television and yet many of their episode running times are way out of step with convention. An episode of Stranger Things could be anything from 42-55 minutes, while House of Cards fluctuates between 43-59 minutes. Just this week, Netflix’s innovation boss, Todd Yellin, said that in future, “Some [programmes] will be 17 minutes long, some will be an hour and nine minutes long.”

Why? Because sometimes the story demands less, and sometimes more. I think I’ve made my point, so I’ll finish now – unless you’d like a paragraph about how my pet hamster is enjoying his new wheel?

Thought not.

Out.