Commentary

120 Sports, New Proof That Info Media Shorts Beat Long Every Time

In information media, it seems nothing much beats brevity. Fast and quick always trumps other messy things, like detail and context, which is part of the reason Twitter is so useful. It's the modern version of the Times Square news zipper that has spewed out headlines since 1928.

It’s hard to remember this but the cable bottom-of-the-screen news crawl began on Fox News about one hour after the first plane hit the World Trade Center in 2001, and it’s never left.

Time Inc. is now partnering with a Chicago company, Silver Chalice, to start an all-short sports site, 120 Sports. No item will be longer than two minutes long, hence the name. That's really not so short for sports. Put a stopwatch to the length of a sportscast on a local newscast; often, they’re not much longer than that.

But 120 Sports, which will operate out of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo studios in Chicago is there because the clear drift is to mobile video. While the stats say users are watching longer and longer videos, the other fact is that mobile is where video is putting a lot of its eggs. Google says 40% of its views came from mobile devices last year; only 25% did the year before that.

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Time will hold a significant equity stake in 120 Sports, which will enjoy partnerships with Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the Natianal Basketball Association, NASCAR and some major college conferences. The NFL’s not there, at least not now, because it just announced its own shorty, NFL Now, just last month.

But to some degree, fans have been doing some of this time trimming on their own.

Lots of NFL fans also want to have live DVR games and then race through them later to get to the good parts. That can save a lot of time. In 2010, The Wall Street Journal monitored four NFL games and discovered there was about 11 minutes of action in each, though typically, a game fills around three hours of time on TV.

There's a lot of cutting to the chase going around. NBCUniversal News Group, just a month ago, bought a small stake in quicky news source NowThisNews that is accessed mainly via mobile apps, and can, almost comically, boil news items into just a few seconds. In December, E.W. Scripps, another old-time news purveyor, paid $35 million to buy Newsy, a novel quick-serve news site operated out of Columbia, Mo. that also is cooked up mainly for mobile.

Even The New York Times has a daily Times Minute video that rounds up all the news that’s fit to…be mentioned within 60 seconds. It’s not the best thing the Times produces, but it does show the lengths that the lack of length has traveled. An app called 5By even curates a daily roster of short videos for its users to watch.

In short, short is where to be. Or, perhaps the fine point is, as mobile continues to grow in raw numbers, and as a source for video viewing, content that is either super-short or super-curated could become this century’s version of CNN or ESPN, or something completely different. Because of the rapid growth of mobile, little bits can be going a long way. It is poetic, in a weird way, that Time will be investing heavily in 120 Sports, a site designed for people who don’t want to spend a lot of time there.

pj@mediapost.com

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