CANDDi Blog

Long-Form News Pieces Prove Popular with Mobile Users

The media landscape has changed greatly in recent years with the rise of mobile internet, and many organisations now have a mobile-first focus. For media organisations, this has raised questions about what kind of news content consumers want on their smartphones - is the trend of short “snackable” content prevailing in this sector, or do mobile users want greater depth?

The media landscape has changed greatly in recent years with the rise of mobile internet, and many organisations now have a mobile-first focus. For media organisations, this has raised questions about what kind of news content consumers want on their smartphones - is the trend of short “snackable” content prevailing in this sector, or do mobile users want greater depth?

Long-form news reports that explore a particular subject area in some depth may not seem to be a good fit for mobile users browsing the web on-the-go via their tiny screens, but a recent study has found that long-form articles are bucking the trend and proving popular on this platform.

The study, carried out by Pew Research Center and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in September 2015, compared the time mobile users spent with long-form news compared to short-form news. It analysed the behaviour metrics of 117 million anonymous user interactions with 74,840 articles from 30 news websites.

Despite the nature of mobile use with limited screen space and the potential for multi-tasking, the study found that users actually spend longer with long-form pieces than short-form. The amount of time users typically engaged with longer articles (1,000 words or more) equalled roughly twice as much as that spent viewing shorter articles - 123 seconds versus 57 seconds respectively.

This difference in engagement between long- and short-form pieces proved to be the same regardless as to the time of day or route taken to reach the content. Detailed analytics, however, suggest that engaged time appears to vary when looking at long- or short-form content exclusively. Factors affecting this include the way in which a user reaches content, the theme of the article, and the time of day at which it is accessed.

The study also found that long-form news pieces are viewed at almost the same rate as short-form pieces, despite short-form content being far more common. Although 76% of news pieces studied were under 1,000 words in length, 1,530 long-form interactions were logged compared with 1,576 short-form interactions.

While the methods of the study may be limited by current technology, and therefore unable to give an entirely accurate picture as to how mobile users are interacting with online news content, the metrics captured provide a strong case for media organisations to continue spending time and resources on creating compelling long-form news content.

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