You guys should definitely check out www.findie.me. It's pretty much exactly what you've both described. A (free) short-form Netflix, in which you don't have to actively seek out content. You just select sliders for how long you've got and what you're in the mood for, and Findie 'finds' you a shed load of films to browse at your leisure. Also, the films have quick mini-trailers so you know what you're in for, as opposed to a thumbnail and and blurb, like most film sights.
Seriously, I love it, and it's got me massively into shorts, which is why I thought to have a discussion about their mainstream appeal.
I guess you're right about the distribution, which is why people don't really have access to short films, but bearing in mind it's a brand new site and probably has a long way to go, do you think Findie could be the answer to bringing shorts to the masses?
I think your answer shows that people do have a perception of what short films are, as you said most shorts are "highly artistic."
There might be some truth to that, but I don't think they're mostly artistic to the same degree as Bergman or Lynch - the reason their films aren't loved by the masses is because they're quite experimental with their story telling.
IMO shorts are mostly cinematic, and not too artistic for the masses. As I said, I've been checking out the shorts on Findie (www.findie.me) and most of the shorts on there seem really accessible.
Check out this film, Foam Drive Renegades - I think it's a good example of good characters, and something that could be loved by the masses.https://fnd.ie/vid/PeaW
But that's just it, in a world where YouTube is the one of the most popular websites, why doesn't the average person want to see a short? Would they really prefer to watch 5 minutes of a cat playing a piano than 5 minutes of quality filmaking? Is it just common perception that shorts aren't that good?