Short form writing has been king for over a decade, spurred on by our use of technology, the arrival of apps including Twitter and Snapchat, and the need for journalists and advertisers to get their point across very quickly, often in a small space online. But things are changing, media sites and advertisers are starting to see the value in the long form and it seems the general public like it.
In the last 18 months Facebook has launched Instant Articles, the Guardian ‘The Long Read’, and Snapchat ‘Snapchat Discover’, offering depth and brevity to subjects only superficially reported on through other media sites. Even Twitter is getting on the band wagon, once sold as “a short burst of inconsequential information” it is rumoured to be changing its character limit from 140 to 10,000.
Talking to What’s New in Publishing, Rob Orchard, publisher of the quarterly magazine Delayed Gratification said: “There was a time when it was all about being shorter and cheaper”.
“When editorial budgets were slashed back to the bone that sparked a trend for short, snappy and cheap content. The idea was to get as many people as possible – often in the millions – to look at free content and monetise it through innovative ad formats.
“But the pendulum has swung back,” he says, pointing to ad blocking as a catalyst for publishers now “rewiring the economics of how their journalism is funded”. In looking for “new ways to win the battle” against ad blockers, Orchard believes more publishers have realised the potential for premium long form journalism, rich with content that readers are happy to pay for.
“We ask our readers to pay and help fund great journalism – it’s a model that’s worked for news outlets for many years,” he says, adding in the last two years there’s been a “swing in the mood,” with more readers willing to pay for content offering a different perspective.
Media analysts have also seen an increase in the use of long form writing by both journalists and advertisers, with advertisers seeing long form writing as a way to help communicate about and build a brand.
Paul Belford, founder of the ad agency that also bears his name said: “People will read what interests them and there’s no reason on earth why that can’t be an ad,” he tells attributes the rise in long form writing to “The promise of what the reader will discover and how interesting the writing is. And that’s down to the skill of the writer.”