The Content Corner: Quality Over Quantity—a Case for Long-Form Content

****Content can be categorized in many ways. While breaking down your website analytics, pay a bit of extra attention to the difference between your short- and long-form content; you may find some interesting discoveries.

Let’s first define the two terms:

Short – Content that is generally created quickly, and consumed just as fast; e.g., tweets, status updates, short blogs and articles (350 words or less). Long – In-depth content designed to give a large amount of detail and info; e.g., e-books, white papers, and long blog post series.

These days, we could probably most agree that short-form content makes up the majority of what is released. With the average attention span of today’s media consumers continuing to decrease, developing bite-sized content is key for those of us striving to create the most valuable and useful content for our audience.

Woman using a smartphone

But, according to a Pew Research study, readers access long-form articles at nearly the same rate as short ones.

“Rather surprising,” I thought when I read that—and it’s something to consider when developing your content strategy (ironically, this is one of my shortest The Content Corner pieces yet). I shouldn’t be surprised though, because it’s something that Tyrus Manuel predicted back in January would be a trend for 2016.

“As we forge ahead into 2016, we should again commit ourselves to focus on creating content for our users and be sure it helps solve specific problems or helps to reinforce positive impressions of our agencies.”

There’s huge value to creating short-form content to grab the attention of your audience, perhaps draw them in and even solve problems in some cases. I’m suggesting you don’t completely trash your long “thought leader” pieces in an effort to draw more traffic to your site. Besides, who said it had to be one form or the other?

“If the content is worth reading, your customers will value and share in-depth articles.”
Mark Schaefer

Speaking of short attention spans, there’s Snapchat, the social network with content that can disappear by design—although it’s features have evolved beyond that to make it “one of the most complete and engaging communication platforms on the market” (learn how USA.gov is using Snapchat to engage with its audience).__You may not have heard, but they recently launched a new digital magazine. Called Real Life, it will focus on “how our lives are mediated by devices.” I checked it out and was surprised to find that the content is quite opposite of its social media platform. Articles are lacking imagery and written in storytelling form, like your typical magazine.

It has yet to be seen how successful the platform will be, but it’s certainly interesting that Snapchat has delved into long-form publishing.

Apparently, long-form content gets more shares/social engagement and it ranks better on search engines. And interestingly, “cell-phone readers spend about twice as much time with long-form content as with short-form content,” with most either later at night or early in the morning.

U.S. public show signs of engaging with long-form articles on cellphones.

According to the Digital Analytics Program‘s Analytics Dashboard, which provides insight into how the public interacts with specific agency websites (currently, more than 400 executive branch government domains across about 5,000 total websites), visits to government websites on mobile rivals that of tablet and desktop, especially on the weekend.

Screen capture of the top of the Data page of the Analytics.USA.gov Dashboard on July 25, 2016.

Short- or long-form, both types of content tend to have short life spans, mostly taking place within the first three days.

So what’s your experience been like? Have you altered your content strategy to cater to catchy headlines and short-form writing, or do you still see the value in long-form content? Leave a comment below or tweet me @SSgtKRich.

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