When it comes to content, size matters

May 1 2019

In today’s digital world, small is beautiful. Information is delivered in nuggets and bullets, listicles and soundbites, and tweets and snaps. Notifications buzz on our devices and divert us long enough to click and perhaps even like. But what if that moment of communication is just that… a superficial moment? Can bite-size content really do the job if we want to deliver authoritative and nuanced information?

We all know the answer to this question. And that’s why long-form content is enjoying a return to prominence. Yes, snackable content can work well for brand awareness – especially for less well-known brands – and snappy product prompts can encourage consumers to travel along the sales journey to the checkout. But a lot of short-form content is content for content’s sake – or repurposed, repackaged and ultimately rejected by the reader.

The sheer volume of content we are exposed to can be overwhelming. In 2014, Mark Schaefer, the author and digital thinker, called this phenomenon content shock. I’m not sure it’s shocking anymore. The overload of information we receive every day is expected and dealing with it has become a content chore.

“I can forecast that engagement levels (a key benefit for many!) will drop as content moves into commodity status,” Schaefer says. “A company producing the first wave of content may have high engagement but this will decline as the market floods with new posts. An inability to generate engagement will force companies to re-think the viability of their effort, or at least how they measure it.”

Bizarrely, we have too much content and the response – from brands and individuals – is to create even more. The BuzzSumo Content Trends 2018 Report concludes more is not necessarily merrier. “The volume of content published continues to increase, and new topic areas get rapidly saturated with content,” it states. “In this new world of content saturation and falling social shares, the big winners are sites that have built a strong reputation for original, authoritative content.”

One way to boost quality and authority is using added length in words or time – not length for the sake of it, but length because it is essential to accurately and comprehensively present well-researched and targeted information and opinions. It may demand a greater investment – of time and money – but it also delivers potentially much higher returns, long-term loyalty and trust.

Imagine if your followers actually looked forward to those notifications. A good example is Patagonia, a company that is serious about ensuring its behaviour is both ethical and environmentally sound. Its impressive anthology of inspirational documentaries such as Treeline is unforgettable, culturally on point, and perfect for positioning the brand. Buy a Patagonia coat and you are buying into a brand that cares. It’s worth paying more to join a guilt-free tribe.

Long-form content gives your reader sufficient well-presented information to fully understand an issue. If satisfied, they will not need to search elsewhere, which will save them time. Their view of your credibility and knowledge will have grown. Your value will have risen. It’s a virtuous circle.

The digital benefits of long-form content

There are also serious digital upsides. As Google’s algorithms get more sophisticated, it’s even more difficult for web managers to manipulate their sites to ensure they ride high in search engine results. Keyword stuffing and other old-school techniques, for example, are counterproductive. Unique high-quality content can boost:

  • Attention span. It keeps the audience’s attention for longer and this increased dwell time, or so-called “session duration,” means you’re constantly earning trust.
  • Sharing rates. For long-form content, sharing rates are increasing. The BuzzSumo’s report revealed that, of a sample of 100 million posts published in 2017, social sharing of content had halved since 2015. Viral posts have dived. Long-form content, however, consistently gets more links and shares than short-form content. “If you are going to share something with your audience you want to make sure it is well researched and authoritative from a trusted source, thus it is possible people are more selective in their sharing,” explains Buzzsumo’s Steve Rayson.
  • Authority. Long-form content gives more opportunities for links, both internally and externally, than short-form. Add with the greater probability of sharing, long-form content can provide a significant boost to a domain’s authority rankings.

So we think it can make a lot of sense to consider producing less frequent but very high-quality content – a less-is-more strategy. The brands that get their ideas across in 2019 and beyond will not be those battling for a few seconds of someone’s attention; in contrast, they will be earning respect and loyalty with seductive information that takes time to create and time to be fully appreciated.

In the financial industry, for example, where complex information often has to be explained, it is an important opportunity. At Paragon, we enjoy the challenge of helping our clients develop and communicate their corporate stories in a fresh and compelling way. If you’d like to talk to us about updating your corporate strategy and creating relevant long-form content to resonate with your target audience, we’d love to help. Why not contact our team?

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