It’s somewhat fashionable right now to believe that digital, mobile and social media consumption are universally reducing attention spans down to nanoseconds but whilst consumption patterns are changing, I think we’re far from seeing the death or even decline of long-form content. The 'Quartz curve' is an interesting way of thinking about this, and one that I've talked about a fair bit since I first came across it a year ago. Quartz have found that whilst people like to read short, fast digital content, they also really appreciate longer, more analytical pieces. The dangerous ground is in the middle. Turns out that for them, articles that are 500-800 words are too long to be a highly shareable, short, sharp take but too short to be an in depth, insightful analysis. Or as Editor-in-chief Kevin Delany puts it:
“The place between 500 and 800 words is the place you don't want to be because it's not short and fast and focused and shareable, but it's not long enough to be a real pay-off for readers. The standard of production for most traditional news organisations is still somewhere within that range. For a digitally native organisation there's an opportunity.”
This, says Delany, also applies to timing with a longer, analytical article produced days after a big event doing well as well as the more obvious shorter pieces produced as the event is unfolding. Intuitively makes sense but lessons there for us all I think.