29 thoughts on “Are you feeling the Longform Overload?”

  1. I don’t get this trying to fit into a long or short format. I just write as many words as needed to say what I need to say depending on what is being said. Sometimes the topic demands more, sometimes brevity is best. Could it be the problem is some articles feel contrived? Make sense?

  2. Well said, Om. One could make a lot of different arguments about why long-form is back on the rise. About time on page, about increasing the opportunity to cross-sell and promote other content (or experiences). And when you slam images and video and infographics into pieces, almost all content becomes long-form. But one thing that the web has done is really evolve our engagement with content. It’s no longer just about the words themselves. It’s about the experience with the words. Thanks to all that digital goodness, it’s about how we interact with the words rather than consume them. The images associated, the extra content from Wikipedia, the video pop-ups and slide-ins. To be honest, I don’t think most people are even reading all the long-form stuff (you should check out Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows” on that point; I don’t completely agree with him but he says the Internet is changing the way we read into skimming). They are simply interacting with it because the act of finding all that “extra” stuff is probably more exciting than reading the content itself. We are wired that way, to get excited about finding something new or novel. So think about like this: the content owner wants to make money (but has to give the content away most of the time) so they focus on other monetization like ads which necessitates keeping people on the page longer (and engaged longer); to do that, they create longer-form content with lots of stuff around it (most sites, unlike yours, have lots of extra digital goodness in the text and margins). Because the only way to keep people engaged is to spruce the content up, to create an experience out of it.

  3. Om, it’s a trend. No one really reads longform anyway even if they say they want it. Longform written well reads itself, it propels the reader along, from paragraph to paragraph until it ends. The rest is scanned, or canned, or sent into the “read later” box from which nothing ever returns.

  4. I read a social media post somewhere saying that ranking on google is better with a long post and since I’ve noticed lots of bloggers writing epic posts. I follow so many blogs that I hardly have time to read all the long ones and sadly pass a lot of them by.

  5. I think we live in a society of fast driven information and slow understanding of thoughts. In that mentality a short blog post will be gain more visits and more comments and maybe more social sharing. The long blog posts will have a select group of readers that care about opinions and thoughts, the fact is that it will be less than usual because the demographic that want more for less is age based and the user that demands fast content is a younger crowd. If you want to get a high number of hits on your page a short post blog will do that combine with social networks. Sad story but is also the truth.

  6. Long for the sake of long is a guaranteed path to boredom. Brevity is not, as is so fashionable to lament, solely for half-wits. I see plenty of room for cuts in this story, for example.

    1. This is not a story — the type I was mentioning. It is my personal blog and is musing and it isn’t pretending to be long form or short form. It is the best I could do to make my point and still keep the fidelity of thoughts. Please if you can do better, share a link. It be a great way for me to learn.

      1. Sorry, didn’t mean to sting. I just thought the same principle applied, regardless of tags, short form, long form, no form. Actually, I thought I was agreeing with you.

  7. This is a timely and really informative piece. I’m a blogging novice (it’s my first week) and have been toying with how long to keep my content. I always recall a literature lecturer inform my class- “Never be too sentimental about your sentences. If you wrote something you think is fabulous, you will come up with another, but do toss the redundant text!” This is my measure when writing: Avoid the sentimental hold and crop/ cut and cull till the core and bite remain. That being said, this comment is somewhat verbose! In short, cheers & thanks! Loved this piece!

  8. Good piece. Good info.

    Biggest pet peeve: long form as result of poor writing skills. Too many writers assigned to or freelancing stories on the internet these days are just, well, incredibly bad. And host sites don’t seem to care about content quality after the opening paragraphs.

    Old school long form: meaty, spicy, nutritional. New school long form: rambling, empty calories with a dash of bad editing.

  9. It used to be that people read books. By that standard, 1500 words is hardly long form.

    By the standard of 9th grade homework, 1500 words is not long form (for reading, not writing).

    It’s not so much about the reader’s attention span that’s at issue; I doubt that’s a problem if the will to read 1500+ words is there. But the will is the thing. How many people visit blogs to find content of that length? Deep down, I think we all know that the 300-word posts are good old-fashioned Short Attention Span Theater and a lot of people want to feel like they’re pursuing something more substantial. That’s where the voiced demand for more long form posts comes from. At the same time, few people want to spend their time with so much substance and are looking for a break. By that measure, long form posts are mismatched with the audience.

  10. For me i deal with any thing i write from a reader point of view , i’m a reader after all and as long as i can remember short pieces were my passion especially if the subject doesn’t require hundreds of words. sometimes less is more .
    thank you for sharing, much enjoyed
    Zara M.

  11. Well, if you really want short form get on Facebook or Twitter. And if you don’t like what you’re reading, just stop reading it. Getting at the writers is just plain daft. It’s like asking if there are too many photos on photo sites, or too many Belgians in Belgium.

  12. I so agree with you that the length of a piece doesn’t define a story or its impact! I hate when people tell me to write a story or article with so many words. Glad you shared this blog!

  13. 1,500 words may be longform on-line. It certainly isn’t for print. I write for a living — short and long — and agree that yes, some stories are easily told in 500 words. But some readers are also starved for nuance, detail, anecdote, not stupid sound bites and endless links, and not only from the fortunate few who still have a staff job at a magazine and a paycheck that allows them to spend weeks, even months, to produce it.

    So let the editors and their budgets figure it out. These days, there are so very few places to publish smart, serious longform work (3,000+ words) that also pay adequately for the skills that make a story compelling…I focus most of that energy now on writing books instead.

  14. I think the problem is not so much the long-form itself, but that many of the people trying it can’t write; “which begs the question is are we starting to overdo it?” being a case in point. When writers change case in the middle of a sentence, as in your, “you can call us bloggers, reporters or whatever — who barely get a couple of minutes to make your point,” this diminishes the impact of and frequently distorts whatever they were trying to say. Another example from this post: “When I look at the world of words today — one not only has to adopt…” Writers who do these things do not deserve to be read, however long or short the piece.

  15. Interesting piece.
    I’m an investigative journalist working in the UK and I’ve always found that the story writes itself.
    The length of the piece is dictated by the amount of relevant information available and, with the exacting libel laws we have in this country, it’s critically important to stick to known facts.
    The fact that, one day, I may have to go into a courtroom and prove every single thing I say today, concentrates the mind wonderfully!

  16. I am going to have to post this in my writer’s group page on Facebook.

    I have a hard time reading dense paragraphs. Makes me quit reading or scroll to the end to read the conclusion, if there is one. Sort of the way I skimmed textbooks in college.

    Sometimes long form does grab me, and propel me along, as the Tom Foremski in one of the comments above points out. That is good writing.

    I did a word count on this to see if it was long form or short form…maybe short. Just curious.

  17. I’m more feeling an overload on so called “short-form”: I gave up on Facebook and G+ entirely, and only at certain times can I honestly tolerate Twitter; yet so many of my friends seemed buried in that sort of media.

    But I am often rambling and prone to wander to numerous tangents, so I appreciate your words. I am still trying to figure out what’s best, and so I tend to switch up approaches– sometimes adding pictures, sometimes staying mostly with pictures, sometimes just keeping to text in varying lengths. My main blog has a theme, now (for a long time, it was more random), but I’ll never totally give up writing about an eclectic, eccentric mix of things. Hopefully a few appreciate that even if most don’t.

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