Newbies and non‐experts like: At some point we’ve all done it. We’ve asked a content pro to do a ‘smaller version’ of something to stretch a dollar. It’s a cunning plan! (we think). Baldrick would be pleased.
If you don’t know who Baldrick is, he’s a character of Blackadder fame. Blackadder was a comedy series in the UK in the 1980s.
Working hard in the bowels of the castle, in a filthy kitchen, with a smarmy boss like Blackadder, Baldrick tries his best to be helpful.
You see, Blackadder always has some difficulty he’s trying to solve. And Baldrick, hoping to be in his master’s good books, comes up with ideas that always look brilliant.
Baldrick’s ideas are cunning plans!
Unfortunately, they often have unpleasant side effects.
Like that time Baldrick convinced Edmund Blackadder to pomp about like a stereotypical man ‘who prefers the company of men’, in order to avoid arranged marriage. But it backfired and she ended up more excited about him than ever. Getting out of the situation caused way more tension and hassle than ever, until Blackadder ended up reading fairy tales to his 8‐year‐old bride.
Or when Baldrick suggested that the best way to avoid the guillotine might be to wait until your head’s been cut off, and then to run around the yard like a chicken. The plan was to exhaust and confuse everyone so that you can run out of the gate and get away.
Or when he suggested to Blackadder that he could rewrite an entire dictionary in a night, after Blackadder accidentally burned the first ever dictionary. Blackadder, enthused by the idea, sits down to it… and gets stuck on the first word: Aardvark. Too late it was that he realised just how much work it was.
If you’ve missed my point, it’s that asking for the same thing ‘but shorter’ only sees half of the work: The words.
The words are the final part of a much bigger process.
There is also:
- research, which may or may not include developing, running and transcribing interviews
… in addition to the writing.
How does this play out in practice?
Well, you want a written something for your business. Let’s imagine it’s a feature article or case study. But instead of one full, explanatory version, you think that you can get more value with a bunch of short ones, putting one source front and centre.
In your mind, they’re shorter, so they must be easier (and therefore cheaper), right?
To do the work properly, your writer must:
- research every interviewee
- find a unique angle for each one
- write appropriate questions for each one
- interview them to get the complete story
- transcribe the interview (or pay someone else to do it)
- write a complete story for each one, preferably without duplication.
Little known outside of the content world, properly writing a complete but shorter story takes more time than a longer one.
It takes much more skill to create impact with short work than with the luxury of space. Some creatives call this effort ‘staring at the wall’ time — because that’s what it looks like from the outside. 🙂
Multiple unique pieces requires:
- more thinking time
- different types of interview questions
- different angles
- multiple, unique pieces of work.
You can see why it’s not cheaper, or less effort, to produce. It’s actually much more effort and therefore more expensive.
Why do they have to be unique? Well, most people will use them online, and duplicate content is not great.
Funnily enough, it’s cheaper to request one amazing piece, and then split its component parts out into smaller articles. You’re using the same work, just chopped up and rearranged. Depending on the type of piece, it can reduce the workload significantly.
This kind of re‐use is a smarter use of time, money, and resources. Your long piece can be used as your canonical link, because it tells the whole story.
And, paradoxically to a non‐writer, it creates more pieces, not fewer.
Of course, if money and time are of no object to you, then you can decide to do it whatever way you like. Sometimes it’s better to take more time and effort, and do smaller, unique pieces.
But not often.