A return to (long) form

Does size matter? We look at the return to quality long-form content and breathe a sigh of relief.

By: Nicola Robey,   2 minutes


The Internet is like one big all-you-can-eat buffet. A pile ‘em high affair, where forks can shovel all manner of morsels into your brain. Most of the time these will be tasteless mounds of flavourless carbs and endless e-number refills – and then, every once in a while you’ll stumble across a considered corner of the web’s gluttonous spread, where only the tastiest mouthfuls are served. These are the dishes you can really savour.

I don’t know about you, but my Internet diet has become painfully unbalanced. It’s bland, fast-food content has left me feeling undernourished and falsely stimulated for too long.

So for my latest Feed, I set out to find some online content that really hit the spot.

Cue the long-form article website Medium. I found out about it through one of our Raft speakers Kyra Maya Philips and her never ending bounty of Internet inspiration (check out her piece on ditching Internet virality if you ever find yourself craving a digital epiphany). What met me was a full-about-turn reversal from the creators of the world’s shortest social media updating site, Twitter.

Medium is a site free from distraction. A bastion of well-designed, curated long-form content that really draws you in, and to my surprise holds you there. In fact, I couldn’t remember a time when I’d spent a whole 45 minutes reading a single article on the Internet.


Sure, it’s still a project in its early stages, resting in a grey area between being an editorially-commissioned site and a platform for user generated content. But its content was refreshingly filling, while still leaving me hungry for more. So much so it’s now a permanent fixture on my bookmark bar.

After feasting on what Medium had bought to the table, I went in search of more deliciously distraction-free content. Mobile magazine site, Offline, cuts through online noise too, publishing just five articles every month on culture, comedy and design. Like Medium, each article is accompanied by a time which states how long it should take to read.

But is long-form content on the Internet really set to rise against its bite-size counterparts? Well, like Twitter, WordPress certainly thinks so. It’s recently bought, a site that gathers  long-form content from across the web. And with such an Internet giant investing so heavily in the form, it’s adding serious fuel to the idea that we’re changing the way we consume content on the web.

Of course different content and contexts will always dictate the way in which we digest information. The sort of instant info needed to sate a grab it n’ go hunger, is very different from the kind of detail desired from an article where you can spend the time to really take it all in. However, regardless of whether its quick fix or time rich, one thing rings true – in an age where online readers’ attention spans are dwindling, content needs to connect if its going to be read. Perhaps creating a space for full flavour, high quality articles that are well researched, well edited and well thought through, will encourage readers to spend longer and think deeper.

It certainly seems like current trends are on long-form’s side. Figures tell us that  long-form content gets more social shares than its short-form alternatives. According to BuzzSumo (a content sharing analysis site), 3000-10000 word pieces getting the most average shares (8859 total average shares).

Simply put, long content doesn’t always mean good content. But when it’s the kind of writing that can really command our flitting attention and genuinely get us thinking  – well, the more of it the better.

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