There’s a prevailing feeling amongst some bloggers that when you post, keeping it short is best. People have short attention spans, some bloggers have found success with bite-sized pieces of information, you don’t want to bore your readers — all kinds of reasons have been trotted out.
Well, there’s some data to refute that line of thought.
Some initial data presented at the American Society Newspaper Editors of Poynter’s EyeTrack07 show that most people who intend to read something actually read it. All the way through. And its even more true for people who read online material as opposed to offline.
But it certainly affirms what many classic copywriting gurus have been asserting for many, many years: if people are interested in a topic they will actually read what you have to say. So, take the time to say it right and make your case, because if they’ve decided they’re going to start, many will actually finish.
The study also goes on to affirm many other eye-tracking studies in that for online media anyway, it makes a lot of sense to break up text into “non-conventional” formats. That means, using elements like navigation, appropriate headers, lists, and so on to prevent fatigue and promote interest.
Does this all give us license to write long, bloated pieces of heavy prose? Well, not really.
All the study is suggesting, I think, is that we should feel comfortable in writing pieces that are as long as they need to be — but not any longer than that. We shouldn’t feel constrained into writing less than what’s necessary because of a fear that your reader will get bored and move on. In fact, as they study suggests, once they start, they will probably finish.
And if that’s the case, the better question to ask yourself is “what can I do to make sure I have a complete post?” If your readers like “Better Content”, and better content leads to more inbound links, and better conversations, perhaps its a question that’s worth asking. In particular, with …
Opinion pieces: are you summarizing the existing situation effectively? Are you making your assertions clearly enough? Could adding examples make your case better?
How-to / Tutorials: are you including a little something that most people don’t actually know? Will adding screen captures and pictures help? Have you made any assumptions that you need to clarify? Would more “steps” help?
“Resource” Posts: Have you really and truly scoured the net for your top 10 list? Could you make it a top 40 list? How about adding a description to each resource listed? Now, how about a useful description? How about an opinion? How about a rating?
I think there will always be a debate about long vs. short posts — with the assumption that with short posts you’re able to increase the volume of posts as well. This bit of data, I hope, provides reassurance that we shouldn’t worry about sacrificing length for the sake of attention if you have something important to say. And I’d like to think we all do if we put our mind to it.