If your role in business involves writing of any kind, which it almost certainly does, you're aware that people's attention spans are shortening. One study gave rise to a (contested) piece of common knowledge that the modern human attention span is around eight seconds, less than that of a goldfish. Because of this growing inattention, many platforms now favor short form content as the general rule, opting for blog posts of fewer than 1,000 words, list-structured articles with quick-read headings, and recaps at the end of extensive content. This shift towards brevity makes it easy for readers to find what they need and challenges writers to use words efficiently, but it doesn't change the fact that sometimes, readers simply need more information.

Recent trends aside, people continue to grant long spans of attention to causes that warrant extended focus. Short form blog or social media posts are perfect vehicles to communicate a simple solution to a problem, but long form content (books, white papers, articles over 2,000 words) can expand the reader's perspective and detail the complexities of a topic. If you're an expert engaging with readers on a regular basis, it's in your best interest to differentiate the broader audience that only needs your quick thoughts from your core audience, which craves depth. Here's how long form content benefits and expands your audience of enthusiasts.

Deep Answers For Deep Readers

Content is like an iceberg. Short-form topics that are quick and accessible are limited by length, but those willing to dive under the surface will find a wealth of information. While it's good social media practice to rack up retweets with articles like "Ten Ways to Boost Productivity Today," your most loyal readers will flock to more extensive pieces on on the challenges and advances in your field.

As you plan your content calendar, make a list of topics where you can go deep. Plan to share your longest articles in a subscription-only letter to your followers, on long form-friendly platforms like Medium, or as contributions to industry magazines or journals. Make sure that the long form content you write offers a research-backed, unique perspective that won't be found elsewhere, lest your core audience (especially those who pay to subscribe to your content) become frustrated with surface-level ideas.

Solidifying Your Legacy

There are some topics that are suited for short form because they have a time limit for relevancy. If you publish a print book on the newest social media platforms, for example, the platforms are likely to have changed or been replaced by the time the book is released. Fortunately, if you're an expert on social media, technology, or anything else, the depth of your knowledge allows you to identify overarching themes that encompass short-term trends. You can build your thought leader platform on the unique way you interpret the past, present, and future of your field, and the best way to document your findings is often through long form content.

As you publish your writing, welcome questions and feedback from your audience. If there are ideas people repeatedly want to talk about or conversations that come up again and again, consider turning those big-picture topics into more long form articles, or into a book.

It can be tempting to dedicate your time solely to short form content to cater to shrinking attention spans, but if you challenge yourself to write more complex and thought-provoking content, you'll win the respect and loyalty of audience members who are as passionate about your topic as you are.

Published on: Jan 26, 2018