Long-Form vs “Snackable” Content: No, shorter is not always better

People read and value long-form articles, despite their busy lives.

Photo: Anna Dziubinska

“I don’t know what happened where every marketer thinks their content has to be shorter and shorter.” – Joe Pulizzi, founder, Content Marketing Institute.

Have you heard the shorter-is-better “wisdom” in your marketing meetings? Odds are you have, because it has become one of those things that people repeat as an obvious truth. Yet despite our busy lives, data shows it to be false.

Before I left the corporate world, I know I heard it from supposedly-informed colleagues. Along with these equally false statements:

  • Young people don’t use Facebook anymore
  • Email marketing is dead
  • No blog post should be more than 500 words

That’s not the end of the list, but the point is made without compiling more.

The true value of long-form articles

What’s the truth? The Quartz Global Executive Study discovered something quite different. Quartz calls it a survey of the media habits of the world’s smartest, busiest people. The 1,357 executives participating reported these results when asked which type of content they are most likely to share:

  • 84 percent say they share long-form articles more than any other content
  • Charts and data came in second at 47 percent
  • Videos were cited by 37 percent and breaking news stories by 36 percent

As you can see, there is no ambiguity in these results. People read long-form content and place a very high value on it. (Perhaps equally important, note that written articles are ranked well ahead of video.)

Mr. Pulizzi’s comment at the beginning of this post was made during Episode 180 of the This Old Marketing podcast (at about the 36 minute mark) that he produces with co-host Robert Rose.

Talking to Rose during the episode, he continued with these remarks. “You and I have been ranting about the whole ‘snackable content’ thing. You know, ‘We’ve got to get shorter and our videos are about 3 seconds long now because executives are busy and they don’t have any time…’ What we learn from this study is that executives love long-form articles – long, meaty, informational articles.”

Think before doing the same old marketing things

An often repeated point by Pulizzi is that we should always be asking why we are doing what we‘re doing in terms of marketing. Ask if sales collateral, trade shows, video, and other common tools are really the right tools for your market and product or service. Don’t just plow ahead with marketing activities that you know (or think you know) and are used to using.

And don’t believe marketing “truisms” just because you’ve often heard them.

Effort spent trying to do more of the same old things, may actually be more profitably spent doing new  and different things. The right things, based on what your customers truly consume and value.

So don’t blindly accept that short content is always better. From this study you can see that if you provide real information, with new data and insight, it’s going to be valuable to your customers. If you don’t have time to produce longer articles, find someone who has the experience to research and write on your behalf.

It will be another way to differentiate you and your business, with everyone else on another specious marketing bandwagon. One of so many that marketers climb aboard without thinking.


Why Do You Need a Collaborator?

Need help to get past the intimidating blank screen?

Photo: Alex Knight

How to beat the odds and finish your book

 As you read this you’re likely one of over 80 percent of people who say we want to write a book. That 80 percent stat is backed by multiple surveys.

We have good intentions too, according to a survey commissioned by Brian Tracy International. The survey reports that nearly 70 percent of us view a book as a way to pass along a message or knowledge that will inspire and educate others.

Yet those surveys also report that only 10 percent or fewer of us do the work to turn our ideas into a published book.

Top reasons you won’t write your book

According to the Brian Tracy survey, the top reason that book ideas remain ideas only is that 40 percent of people don’t know where to start. Another 31 percent say they lack confidence or don’t feel qualified. And the third most cited reason, at 18 percent, is a lack of time.


Rather than feeling bad about those stats, these answers uncover a pretty good self-awareness and understanding of what it takes to write a book. Despite the desire to do it and good reasons for doing so, writing a book is not a job that 80 percent of people have the skill or time to successfully accomplish.

Be one of the few who will be an author

To help you capture your message of inspiration or knowledge, and get it into the hands of those who matter to you, you most likely need a collaborator (aka ghostwriter). An experienced collaborator knows how to plan and execute a book writing project. They also enable you to offload the burden of time it takes to make it happen.

We’re the ones who can lay out a process and guide you through it, breaking down your wall of inertia into these manageable steps:

  • Build an outline to help you think about and distill your core messages, and lay out the chapters for your book.
  • Develop questions based on the subject of each chapter.
  • Interview you, saving you from facing the intimidating, time-wasting “blank screen” as you ponder what to write. Your collaborator should have good interview skills to draw out your message and help you explore valuable new offshoots and ideas that spring up along the way.
  • Transcribe, organize, and revise the information gathered in the interviews into an easy-to-read flow.
  • Periodically review progress with you, so you can provide feedback and ensure the writing stays true to your voice and vision.
  • Revise and re-write until you overcome the odds and complete your book.

A collaborator/ghostwriter can provide the quality writing you need to stand out

A final key point: Despite only one in ten people writing the book they want to, the volume of books continues to grow. Over 300,000 are published each year. According to Bowker, a writing services company that supplies important book registration numbers to the trade, self-publishing is an especially fast growing part of the market. In the latest figures reported by the company, registrations grew at a rate of 21 percent year-over-year and continue to accelerate.

Those numbers clearly show that you need to “sound different” to set yourself apart. Professional collaborators can provide the quality of writing that you need to make your book (or any other written materials) stand out in a crowded marketplace.

I’m happy to discuss your project with you with no obligation on your part. Let’s talk.