Quality over quantity: why long-form trumps snackable content

By Siobhan Koopmans

Snacks aren’t as satisfying as meals. And if we eat too many, we tend to get fat.

While most of us are comfortable with this health reality in daily life, in a digital world, marketers have long told us that consumers prefer short, bite-sized, content.

On mobile devices, the rule has always been to observe short word limits and keep it simple. Twitter, and SMS before it, have played a role in this behavioural shift.

If new research is to be believed, our online ‘snacking’ behaviour is changing. The content we are craving is less ‘snackable’ – we want the whole meal, meat and three veg.

Perhaps we’re realising that too much 600-199 snacking is making us fat; the digital snippets we consume are dumbing us down.

In traditional media, long-form quality editorial has always been held at a premium. And today, media outlets – on and offline – are desperately defending the need for considered editorial so as to avoid a brain drain, as well as protect their relevance.

With newsrooms shrinking globally, media partnerships have become more prevalent, allowing journalists to continue to deliver high impact, long-form, investigative digital pieces at scale.

The Panama Papers, a collaboration between Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Guardian and the BBC, with support from The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, was one of the biggest leaks and largest collaborative investigations in journalism history. Accordingly, the dedicated microsite created by Fairfax and The Huffington Post about ‘The Bribe Factory’ investigation into Unaoil was one of the most popular stories either outlet has ever published online.

We’re seeing similar trends in video consumption. Think with Google recently confirmed this with its Mondelez video case study; “the longer-form ads were more effective in lifting brand favorability than the 15-second ad. The extra depth and dimension of more complex stories created a more meaningful connection to the brand…a longer story may be necessary to persuade people to change how they think.”

So what does this mean for corporate communications today?

Well, it probably says that best practice aligns with the analogy of good eating habits. A balanced diet is best.

We’re reading and sharing longer (1000 words plus) articles these days. We value an insightful, memorable read. We want knock-out visuals and rich digital reading experiences. But at different times during the day, we equally appreciate ‘snackable’ content through social media along the way.

Whether you’re a media outlet or a media manager, the principles are the same. High-quality digital editorial sets a healthy foundation and occasional social snacking means you don’t go hungry.

The statistics on how much content arrives on the internet in one minute are mind-blowing. To achieve cut-through in contemporary corporate communications, we need to focus on the quality 400-351 of our offering and ensure it is part of a balanced communications diet.