Media companies and content marketers alike are turning to long-form content to capture readers’ attention.
The reason? They’ve found that Google favors lengthier stories, and that measuring the amount of time readers spend on a page is a better indicator of audience engagement than counting clicks per page.
1. More Engagement
Readers appreciate content that’s insightful and thorough — something they can sink their teeth into. At least that’s what the numbers say. A study released by data lab Medium last December found that the optimal post “length” for capturing the most attention on average is 7 minutes. This time translates into an article of roughly 1,600 words.
According to Medium’s Mike Sall, who interpreted the data in this article, “the longer posts tend to see more visitors…the longer posts are higher quality, resulting in more sharing and, consequently, more traffic.” The study’s findings suggest a possible connection between length and quality.
2. Better Search Results
Longform.org, curator of top in-depth journalism, recently launched a new app, further underscoring the demand for quality over quantity. The app lets users follow individual writers and their choice of more than 1000 different publishers, then download articles for viewing offline. The app’s algorithm filters content based on word count (the cutoff is 1,500 words) and other factors.
New York magazine calls the success Longform and its competitors (Longreads and Byliner among them) proof of the “survival of feature writing in a click-bait world.”
Google also plays a role. The media giant has gone to great lengths to update its recent algorithms to “weed out all the crud found online,” wrote Jake Rigdon in an a Sept. 2014 article for Business2Community, ensuring that “well-researched posts…are seen by more people than the 500-word, keyword-stuffed garbage you might have cranked out at breakneck speed.”
What does this mean for the future of reading and content creation? It’s too early to tell how this trend will affect overall content marketing strategies, but it’s clear that the appreciation for comprehensive reporting is as strong now as it was in the early days of newspaper.