Will People Read Long Articles On The Web?

Will people read long or lengthy articles on the web? This is a frequently asked article marketing question that I have decided to finally answer today because of a little inspiration from the Blog Tyrant and his well-written, oversized articles.

Q: Hi Lisa. I want to know if it’s really true that people will not read really long articles on the web (like 1000, 1200 words). I am an experienced writer and I want to start making money by writing online, but I don’t know how to dumb down or shorten my work. I give lots of details and examples that make total sense for my articles and I don’t want to stop doing that just because there is some “unwritten” rule about how long an article on the web should be.

cut long articles

A: Whew! That was a great question from one of my more regular readers. In fact, when I asked some of my readers to help review a report for me – I was surprised to see that many of them were very seasoned writers. Phd’s in writing. So I completely understand where a lot of you are coming from. Many of you are experienced and talented writers who understand that the form of popular media is changing – moving towards a digital format – especially with all the eReaders now available. You want to capitalize on this new movement and make a little money on the web or even make a living on the web with your writing. But you need to do it your way.

I understand that –and there are folks out there who absolutely do write 900, 1000, 1400 word articles which do very well. So you could write long articles if you want, if that’s what you need to do, and do fine in the search engines and do fine with your readers. There is are no hard rules around writing on the web – just guidelines. So to make the case for writing long articles, I’ll say that:

1. Your readers may love that you have given them SO MUCH information in one article that they subscribe to your list and become devoted fans.

2. You will have given a new visitor a true sample of your writing and your talent, that makes them want to come back for more.

3. Long articles can give the reader the impression that you are very knowledgable on your topic and so they view you as an expert.

Now the last time I wrote and published one 1400 word article was probably for a magazine I was freelancing for, or maybe in the old days I wrote really long articles on my first website. I have written 1200-1500 word articles since then as well, but I always break them into three pieces and this is why…

1. I get three articles for the “time-spent” price of one. I can do more things with three articles than I can with one. I can turn them into an article series which has a higher perceived info-value then one article. Even one very long article:)

2. I feel that writing more often and consistently is more important than writing a very long article when the mood strikes. It’s better for the writer because it creates momentum — you are in a continuous flow of research and writing. It’s better for your traffic because the search engines see that you are publishing on a regular basis – so they crawl your site more often.

I haven’t seen a lot of writers (on the web) be able to write really long, in-depth articles on a consistent basis. There are some, but they typically are people who were writing very long articles in the print media arena and so they are use to producing at that level on a regular basis.

3. It’s been researched and tested that due to the nature of how we read information on the web (computers, hand-held PDA’s, iPads, Kindles, etc.), that people can only tolerate to digest “chunks” of information at a time while looking at a screen. In fact, that’s even been proven in print as well. Which is why so many of the younger generations get their news from television or from blogs and websites that deliver very short chunks of news. Especially in people under 50 years old. So you have to also think about your demographic…

4. Does my ideal customer who is a working, 35-year-old, mother of two have time to read a 1500 word article from me everyday? How about once a week? Does she even want to? Or does she want an answer to a question – and be able to move on to the next thing. While I’m not 35 anymore:), I can tell you that I don’t even have time for that and this is what I do for a living!

Conclusion
This article just ran into about 900 words which I’m fine with today, because there are no specific “rules” around what you must do. Write in the format that you feel most comfortable with and in a way that your demographic dictates, because ultimately you don’t want to only write for yourself – you want other folks to read what you write! Make sure to leave a comment if you have any other questions or think I overlooked something about writing long articles for the web, I’d love to get a sustainable conversation going on over here about it.

Comments

  1. says

    Good topic! I do find long articles slightly off-putting when I fire up my feed reader in the morning. I don’t have time to read them then but I’m using Instapaper to save them to read later.
    There is a place for long articles which are in-depth and instructive. However, there’s nothing worse than ploughing through a post to find that the author is just being long-winded and you’ve actually learned very little. So try and be as concise as possible.

  2. Blog Tyrant says

    I feel kind of bad now. Maybe I should go back and cut all my articles in half. I don’t have many less than about 1900 words!

  3. Monique Y. Wells says

    I agree with you, Lisa. I just finished a blog posting that is roughly 750 words long. It has lots of photos. I finally decided to break it into two postings, partly because viewing the photos will occupy the reader’s time and will make the article seem longer than what it actually is. A major part of my decision was gaining two postings for the “price” of one article!

  4. says

    It is interesting to see that your reader considers 1000 – 1200 words “really long”. I think it depends a lot on how interested the reader is in the topic and how it is formatted.

    I hate reading really long articles. As you rightly point out many of us don’t have the time. A long article is much easier to read if it’s broken up with headlines and bullet points. I was surprised to read that your post was 900 which I would not say was long at all.

    • says

      True Sandy. I think a lot depends on interest and some of it is the niche. I think folks in marketing are overloaded with content – so getting to the point is a better strategy. There is no expert, no guru, yet that I will give 1200-1900 words of my time to on a “regular” basis. Once in a while yes.

      Now I think writers in other niches can get away with longer articles, but I still don’t have a lot of faith in people these days in regards to their attention spans and their computer screens:)

  5. says

    Totaally agree with you that 1200 word articles are best broken down into three articles and putting an emphasis on consistency. Also makes it easier for people to read.
    I think yes, people WILL read long articles, but they will do so less than they will a 300 word article. And it requires a lot more skill to pull of a 1200 word article because it requires a much bigger commitment.

  6. Elkrull says

    I think it really depends on how you break it up. When you have some clear subtitles, some white space, and a compelling reason to get to the end, one that approaches 900 or 1000 words can probably work sometimes. However, I do agree that smaller ones are better for mental digestion on a regular basis.

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