Long Form Versus Short Form Content – Which Works Best?

Written by Brick Marketing

There seems to be little doubt that our attention spans, especially when it comes to consuming online content, are getting shorter and shorter all the time. You only have to look at a social site like Twitter, where you’re capped to 140 characters, to get a sense that short form content is in and long form content is out; people simply can’t be bothered to invest the time into reading longer pieces of content. Even our message for saying something is too long, i.e. TLDR (too long, didn’t read), is tightened up to as few characters as possible.

So if our attention spans really are that short is creating long form content worth the time it takes to create it? If people are only interested in snippets and sound bites does an article that’s 2,000+ words have any value in today’s online world?

Jessica Lee of bizbuzzcontent pointed out,

When I worked at Bruce Clay, Inc., I used to crank out 1,500-word posts daily. We asked ourselves if the time it took to write an in-depth piece actually paid more dividends than a shorter piece. Unfortunately, we never found a definitive answer, but we did see positive metrics when we put more time into something versus not.

It really depends on the topic and audience. For example, I write news for Search Engine Watch, and with news announcements, people expect it to be straightforward and give them the information they need as quickly as possible.

Then, think about publishers like Mashable that typically write only a few paragraphs on a topic and get massive engagement. This is because it has an established brand and its audience generally accepts the format.

I think Jessica makes a great point. In some cases short and sweet is better. People want to get the information they need quickly and move on to something else. I know I use Twitter as a way to get a snapshots of today’s headlines and news stories. If one in particular attracts my attention I might be willing to invest a little more time in that story but for the most part I want the recaps. That’s why infographics are so popular—it’s an easy way to digest a lot of complicated information in a short amount of time.

On the other hand, when you have a complicated or complex issue that needs solving than 140 characters is not going to do it. You might be able to break one extra large piece of content down into smaller chunks but I still need to read and comprehend all of it to get the information I need. For instance, if I wanted to install a new radio I picked up on Black Friday into my car instructions that tell me A) remove old radio and then B) install new radio are not going to cut it. I want a detailed guide with pictures and diagrams and maybe even a video to walk me through the process. I need a tools checklist so I don’t get halfway through the project and realize I’m missing the right screwdriver. I want a troubleshooting guide so if I put it all together and the thing doesn’t work I can backtrack to learn why. In that scenario I don’t only need long form content, I demand it!

As Jessica mentioned, long form and short form content each have their place and time. A good content marketing campaign is going to have a mix of both so that your audience never has to turn to another source for information. The goal of content marketing is to provide your readers will all the information they need to act in some way, shape, or form. Sometimes that means keeping it tight and other times that means going into every nitty gritty details (and sometimes you need to be right in between the two). It’s doesn’t have to be long form versus short form content, you really want both hold up your website!

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