Let me begin by saying that I enjoy growing within this GovLoop stratosphere. The camaraderie is amazing. Fresh faces continue to sign on daily. Blog posts & discussions are always worthwhile-n-thought provoking. It’s this type of environment that has helped to motivated me to Legendary status in a New York minute.
But, I do have a challenge. It’s trying to read some of the long posts. It would reallllly be helpful if we, as writers, consider the reading time of our fellow awesomites.
Okay Mr. “Legendary Status in a New York Minute”, Uh Huh, since you wanna bring this up, Uh Huh, how long is too long? Now, since you from the Show-Me-State, you need to show me some data. Because you are not all that. Not up in this camp.
- A little research reveals that the average reader spends 96 seconds reading the average blog. This is consistent across several sources
- Average American adult reads text at 250 to 300 words per minute [Wikipedia]
This equates to about 400 – 480 words in a blog post. I’m more inclined to read that!!!!
It’s also fair to mention that the most popular blog posts here on GovLoop ( the ones with the most comments) have less than 400 words.
Okay you got me. Humph, it might make a little sense. But, since you all UP in this article, How bout some suggestions? Cause I have a lot to say. I mean a lot.
I just cant GET IT ALL IN WHEN ALL I’M WORKING WITH IS 96 SECONDS!
I need some suggestions, a workaround, a quick fix, something. How long is gonna take you to write that? I know it won’t be over 96 seconds……
- Break Your Post Up Over Several Posts
- Keep it simple. We’re a pretty smart bunch
- Use hyperlinks but don’t overdue it
- Pictures can help breakup the content and are worth a thousand words.
- I would love to hear your suggestions and links!
Of course, there is nothing hard and fast about this logic.
That being said. Bloggers please;
Be Awesome. Continue to submit those post that I love to read.
Be Considerate. By ensuring that your post is of a manageable, readable size.
If you like this article make it awesome. Thanks again, James.
Ah, but this infraction has it’s own punishment. Remember, we are the internet generation, all players in Short Attention Span Theater. If the page doesn’t load in 4 seconds, we are off to another site. I’m willing to scroll down once, maybe twice to finish reading something. But then I’m really only scanning it to see if it is coming to some sort of closing point. If it’s still “blah, blah, blah”, I’m gone. “Brevity is the soul of wit.” – Polonius (Shakespeare’s Hamlet, act 2, scene 2)
LOL! (James has stepped away from the keyboard and laughed in agreement). Ed, I have to admit that I do the same thing. If the content doesn’t feed the knowledge beast in 4 seconds FLAT, I also tend to disappear. We just have to be cognizant of the real results here. There is just a reduced chance of the average reader will push through a 2,000 word post.
Great points! It is typical of most major journalistic endeavors that “full-length” articles should be limited to roughly 1,500 words at a max in order to keep your audience. (This is in print as much as it is online..and is typically broken up with graphics, photos, videos, and/or content other than text in general.) With typical blog entries being more so in the 250-500 word range at a high end and also including supporting content. Basically, if you can’t say it in 250-500 words, you probably don’t have blog material and you should point to a full-length article rather than a series.
On that topic; the only thing I will provide editorial on is the “make a series” comment. Truthfully, as an understudy for the lead at the Short Attention Span Theatre, if you can’t make your point in one full-length article and/or single blog: I’m not likely reading your series. Announcing a series to make your point tells me one of two things: 1.) You can’t make a solid elevator pitch (so why do I care?) and 2.) Expecting me to remember previous posts based on the acknowledgement I only read/scan content is a bit over zealous and only serves as a self-licking ice cream cone of public narcissism or uncalled for personal marketing. (Read=Uncalled for business development pitch for service that already exists or comes at no cost to the customer in the status quo. Alternatively: “yay me!”) That probably stung a little bit, but being a belt-way dweller I can only seriously take so many “series” that tell me nothing before I throw in the towel and move on, wishing for every second back I spent reading a cyclical argument that could have been resolved in executive prose and under 1,500 words…or with random Dilbert comics, of course…
…if you didn’t laugh, it’s probably because you’re the lemur…
(smile..it’s a joke..or is it??..hmmm)
These were all very interesting points. I went back to the beginning of the post after you made the point about 96 seconds and timed myself reading this post. I clocked in at 72 seconds 🙂 I will definitely be thinking about this next time I post a blog! If you were going to create a series, what is the ideal number of posts would you include in it? I agree with Chris in that if a series goes on too long readers may lose interest.
Good advice. For me, Seth Godin packs to most value into the shortest blog posts that I know of.
I agree that blogs of around 400 to 480 words are probably optimal, but some subjects are better covered in 600 words or even more. As Abraham Lincoln said when asked how long his legs were, “Long enough to reach the ground.” While blogs should probably not exceed 1,000 words, the length should depend on the subject and how many words are needed to cover it adequately, and of course, whether or not the writing is interesting.
I am notorious for overlong blogs, but then again I am writing commentary and I want to back up my points. I’m working on shorter blogs, but I almost feel guilty as if I haven’t offered much of value. I think there is room for longer blogs. I guess we should really refer to them as e-articles. I tend to refer to my blogs as articles because they are too long for blogs of the standard variety. Unusual in the field of blogging information sites, the Free Management Library looks for substance as well and recommends longer blogs on a topic. I agree there is a limit. Still, I’m going to work at making mine shorter. There are readers who will read a casual article, written with style and substance on the internet that is 1500 words. That’s not the majority, I’m sure, but something more like the NPR style of blogging–not the same audience either.
@Jack – I think you hit the nail here. It comes down to what we “call” things. A blog in my mind is supposed to be a quick shot at a topic. Where articles, stories, etc are meant to be the complete package as it were. I think people read stuff based on some type of taxonomy of the internet and what these words mean. (e.g., for a long time people didn’t take content of blogs seriously as they were typically regarded as random thought..or..articles were always researched etc.)
So, maybe a good question to consider here is “what is a blog?” and “what is the purpose of a blog?”
Blogging is often “sold” to individuals with the idea that this will give them credibility. Unless these blogs do have something special to make readers go to the original site, RSS, then we are not achieving that recognition. Some people have nothing to say, but like to “hear” themselves talk. After blogging for some time, and after receiving comments and e-mails, I know I have followers. My promotion consists of a link to my webpage where other “What I Say” may be found.
Excellent article! Which comes to the NEXT question… how long does it take you to write your blog post? I know I when tweeting, I rewrite something at least 4 times:
This can sometimes be anywhere from one minute to twenty minutes (depending on if someone else has to review it, etc.).
So how long from beginning to end, total time, in writing you blog post??
Probably about 30 minutes max. This is after conceptualizing. I rough draft in MS word for word count management.
@Robert. You make a good point. Sometimes it’s more than surfing for quick bytes.
Thanks for pointing out that people only want to invest 96 seconds reading blogs.
Several other considerations I would offer:
Don’t advise people on how to do something unless you are the subject matter expert on how it will impact them. For example, some people are giving out what this HR recruiter considers bad advice on resume writing. I normally check the writers work history to see if they know what they are talking about.
Use language all can understand. For example I don’t know what “all up in this camp” means.
Having worked with young people most of my adult life, I know what “all up in this camp” means and I’ll bet James thought we would all be able to figure it out. It’s true though, when addressing a large cross-section like what we have here in GovLoop, we’ll all need to be a little more thoughtful about how we “talk.”
Normally, I would respond. But, to do so, would take the focus away from the real intent of the post. I will say that it is important that any props or slang used when communicating a message have to be carefully considered. This is especially important when the audience is cross-generational. Additives should never upstage the real message.
But, raising an eyebrow or two is okay ;).
Great post, James. I enjoyed your writing style and the advice is right on. You can always link to in-depth information if you’ve got more to say. And if you’re like me, it isn’t necessarily that you don’t *want* to dig deeper, it’s just that you’re sifting through hundreds of links and e-mails and have to be judicious about where you spend your time. To learn how to help readers decide whether to dig into your content, check out Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O’Flahavan’s Web site, http://ewriteonline.com. Though written over a decade ago, their article, “The Bite, the Snack and the Meal…” (http://www.powerhomebiz.com/vol36/bite.htm) is a great primer for Web writing.
Hi, Robert. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I agree that “it’s a priority thing:” We have a tremendous amount of info to sift through on any given day. To manage our time well, we must decide which subjects are worth our time and how much of it to allocate. Clear, concise writing with navigational cues (like a table of contents or the headings you mentioned), helps us do that.
Writing is a transaction. Writers expect us to invest our time in reading their material and responding to it. I expect them to respect my time, especially in this age of information overload and “doing more with less.” When I’m writing for others, I strive to do the same.
I’m confused by your analogies. The formats, audiences, purposes, and style are completely different for blog-, research- and textbook writing. But I’m betting you’d agree that, for blogging–as with any form of writing–it definitely behooves the author to consider the audience and the medium.
There’s definitely something to the attention span thing. I’ve read that there’s really no such thing as “multitasking,” just “task switching,” and that it makes us less efficient. Maybe you’d like to research and do a post on it, or collaborate on a post? I’ll bet you’d get lots of interest. See also Mark Stelzner’s humorous post, The Attention Deficit Recession (http://goo.gl/LjuSH) or the spirited conversation sparked by Henry Brown, “Using the Internet…is bad for you” (http://goo.gl/53r9r).