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Research / Insights on current and emerging industry topics

Mobile is powerful platform for long-form content

May 18, 2016 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

pew chart aConsumers are willing to engage with longer content on their phones. A recent Pew Research study conducted in association with the James L. Knight Foundation and Parse.ly, a web analytics company, found that consumers spend almost twice as much time with long-form stories (i.e., news stories over 1,000 words) on mobile devices than short ones (123 seconds compared with 57). In fact, longer stories attract readers at about the same rate as shorter stories. While a 123 seconds or just over two minutes may not seem so long, it’s longer than most consumers spend with local television news stories. Importantly, the higher word count appears to directly correlate to increased consumer engagement.

However, consumption of content, short and/or long can vary based on how the reader came to the article, the time of day, and even by the topic covered.

  • Consumers spend the most time with content in the late night and morning. In late night, consumers spend on average 128 seconds on long-form content and 60 seconds or less on short-form. In the morning, consumers spent 126 seconds long-form and 59 seconds on short-form content.
  • Time spent with long-form content also varies based on how consumers access the content whether it be via a link from an external website, social media, search, etc. Time spent with long form articles based on entry points appear in ranked order: access via an internal link averaged 148 seconds, visit an article directly or follow an email link averaged 132 seconds, arrive from external website averaged 125 seconds, search averaged 110 seconds and social Media averaged 111 seconds (while lowest in time spent with long-form article, still accounted for greatest share of traffic).
  • Consumers accessing long-form via Twitter spend on average 133 seconds on content where as if they access via Facebook, they spend on average only 107 seconds. The same pattern follows with short-term content.
  • As one may expect news articles, both short and long, have a brief life span. Eight in 10 consumers interact with short form articles within the first two days of publication and 72% interact with long-form within the first two days of publication.
  • Important to note, visitors to long-form articles (28%) are somewhat more likely to view multiple articles on a site than visitors to short-form articles (22%). However, long-form reading does not necessarily develop site loyalty.
  • The research further identified the most popular long-form content on cellphones. Consumers read long stories on crime, foreign policy and government and entertainment and were also more engaged as the story lengthened.

Content on mobile does not need to limit itself to short-form. Mobile offers publishers a strong outlet for long-form content allowing for more sources, more points of view and additional context.

pew chart b (1)


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