Readership Question: How long should our blog posts be?
October 20, 2004 at 11:24 AM
One of the things that I find interesting is perceived value based on length of information. For example, when reading blog posts, it is interesting to see how the average length of a blog post varies dramatically from site to site. On one end of the spectrum you have what I would call link-blogs like you see in the "Latest Links" section on the right of stopdesign. Near this same group there is the short posts that are often found on sites like K10k. Digital Web Magazine's blog posts contain a bit more commentary but are still link focused. Then on the other end of the spectrum you have post such as the ones Keith makes on Asterisk. So my question for you this week is, what do you find as the optimal blog post length specifically for the Digital Web Magazine daily news blog... How long should our blog posts be? Do you want to see longer posts? Do you want to see the blog turn into a link-blog with a separate supplemental blog for longer editorial posts? Or are the posts you see today just the right length?
It's simple really. They need to be as long as the need to be. I mean that, but it doesn't mean I achieve that very often. My posts are probably too long on average.
I agree with Keith. It really is that simple.
Keith: Thanks for circumventing the point of this reader question. :P I agree with you, however, I am not talking about how long you should write for. I am talking about how long do the readers want to read for. How long is too long for Daily news. How short is too short. i.e. what do they have time and patience for when reading daily news.
As a regular reader, I think Keith actually hit the nail on the head. It doesn't matter how long it is - what is important is the content itself. I am more inclined to read a long interesting post, than a short boring post; therefore, they need to be as long as they need to be.
It depends on the content and they style of the author. Some subjects are better tackled with several paragraphs, others with an entire series of posts. I favorite long, though-out posts on a serious subject, with hand-on code if it's coding-related.
Nick, I was talking about how long the reader should read for. I write REALLY, REALLY fast. It's probably why my post are so long and why they are sometimes totally wacked.
Ok, Simon, good point about how important the content is. So, with that said, knowing how important the Daily News content on Digital Web Magazine is, how long would you read for? 1 paragraph? 20 paragraphs? 6,000 pages? :)
Gabriel, "specifically for the Digital Web Magazine daily news blog... " ..which typically has one author, me. And very simular "value" from post to post.. tho there are a few that really draw interest.
Any piece of writing should be as long as it needs to be to say what it needs to say. If you're writing something very simple, and you're trying to meet a 4-paragraph minimum, then something is wrong. Conversely, if you're covering a complex topic with only a paragraph, you need to reconsider. (As an aside, most writing "out there" can be pruned by 50% or more, and it will be easier to read.) All that said, I'm pretty happy with the length of Digital Web's news post length. It's generally short enough to be a quick read, but long enough to engage me. (For an idea, I usually have to mark Keith's posts as unread in my newsreader until I have more time, but I can breeze through a few Digital Web posts immediately and often bookmark the things they link to for later perusal.)
And of course, I should have read the comments first. Keith said exactly what I meant in much fewer words. :)
So, with that said, knowing how important the Daily News content on Digital Web Magazine is, how long would you read for? 1 paragraph? 20 paragraphs? 6,000 pages? Hmmmm. I'd be less inclined to read 6000 pages, Nick. I would suggest setting an upper limit of around 3 or 4 paragraphs - most things can be summarized with that number - but you could make exceptions for particularly interesting or detailed stories. There is no need for a lower limit. Sometimes, even a single link is sufficient. On the whole, Digital Web gets it about right at the moment, but there is plenty of room for fiddling if needed.
Simon: Good to know. Some days, perhaps after reading one of Keith's post, I feel like the news posts are too short and not that valuable or helpful. But then, sometimes I feel like the length of content we publish in the news blog are just what the reader is expecting...any longer and it's not news blurbs.. its news articles... maybe.
Suggestion: include a summary on the page like severl sites do and then let the article be as long as it needs to be. You've then freed your readers to do with it what they will. They are probably scanning it if it's long anyway.
I think the most important thing (in my opinion) is that the log stay connected to the site in some way. I understand you could go with a linked log, but don't lose this version, regardless of length. I believe that there is a bit more focus, sense of accountability and a little more decency when we post to an online magazine such as DWM. Not to say any other log is more or less important, and online commenting, debating, fighting, etc. is our right. But let's face it, we can get awfully rude the further we get away from human contact (Technically speaking, the term is "getting your ass kicked up side your head"). It is just nice to have a contrast.
oh, one other little matter. Isn't there are an issue of the log posts competing with publshed articles if they get too much longer or emphasized? Just a question (disguished opinion: "I think they might").
The Daily News seems to have two kinds of posts (other than new article announcments): posts that point to a single article with your bit of commentary on them, and posts that are "theme" based posts where you tie a few posts together from different blogs. The "theme" based posts are generally a bit longer than the ones pointing to a single article, and I'd suggest that both types of posts are about the right length as they are. The only thing that I would improve would be the feed for Daily News - I've always found feeds more usable if they explicitly include a summary in the "description" field of the feed, rather than including the whole post, or an auto-generated excerpt. It lets me decide if I want to read the full post much more easily.
" They need to be as long as the need to be. "
Personally, I like the generally short length they are now. DW blog posts tend to be quick 'factoids' rather than longer articles which require more dedication to get into, and this is a good thing. A good mix of factoids and articles keeps things balanced, and there is always something I can stop by and read, no matter what sort of time frame I am on.
Should Digital-Web change the length of it's posts? absolutely. It does so all the time, perfect!
I have to amend my comment(s). The post are always coming from Nick, correct? In that case they are editorial content, such as you find in traditional publications. An editorial is an "article in a publication expressing the opinion of its editors or publishers." In that case, I don't think the length is the issue so much as making it clear that it is editorial content, such as you see on the OpEd page of the New York Times. I think you should write whatever you feel is appropriate and treat it the same way as the Articles if it is a lengthy piece; that is, teaser linking to a longer Op-Ed article if needed. I was confused, so I apologize about the previous post being "slightly off."
Michael: yes, most of the time they are coming from me. But not all of the time. Right now its setup so any staff member can post to the blog. previously it was setup so any contributing author could post to the blog, and we will be eventually going back to that when we get a chance to update the workflow in our CMS.. but not in the short term.
I'd say daily news should be no longer than 2 paragraphs with maybe a link to a longer version or site with a longer version. I've been trying to do that with my Linux Log (http://linux.quicksurf.com/), and it seems to be about right. You get just enough info to decide if you want to investigate further.
Nick: I meant to suggest the editorial board, editors, publisher, staff, etc., when I mentioned "editorial content." I guess what I am trying to say is that I think the posts in the "OpEd blog" (just made that up, hmmm..) should somehow be differentiated from the contributed articles and content, as it is now, yet still keep to the same professional standards, regardless of who in the Digital Web Magazine "family" posts there. In my humble opinion (right), Digital Web Magazine is one of the greatest assets we have in the Web profession because it is an established, credible, "publication of record"-a road map, you might say- that I use daily and value tremendously. What distinguishes Digital Web Magazine is that everyone involved so carefully follows the mission and goals as stated... "...Through the magazine's contributors and resources, a professional attitude is conveyed." It also states: "It's important that the vision of the magazine carries through in all of the contributed work, and that everyone who contributes shares the same vision that we (the editorial board) do." So, what I am curious about really comes down to content: 1. Will blog follow the same goals and "vision of the (editorial board)?" 2. What do you see the blog providing to your readers that the standard site does not (in the future)? Well, I just made things a lot more complicated, didn't I? Thanks Nick and all.
How long? Interesting question. How about looking to other media formats as a gauge? Since you specify "blog post" length, I'd say 5 minutes max! Don't laugh yet -- bear with me a second. I think a typical DW "blog post" describes something that is more than a "blurb", yet less than an "infomercial". It's provocative, yet not necessarily definitive. It's encouraging, yet not smothering. It has a viable purpose, yet is not patronizing. It typically is expanded by a number of intelligent comments that should be taken into account when defining "length". To extend my analogy, I'd equivocate: Headline = 1 line = 1 second; Teaser or RSS entry = 2-3 lines = 10-20 seconds; Blog Post = 3-6 succinct paragraphs =
Looks like my comment was cut short -- probably used a disallowed character. But I hope my point was illustrated, i.e. "length" is ambiguous in this context.
Alright, so we'll leave them as is.
I've learned the lesson and will thus post in brief on a subect of high importance: Public toilets are still available for general use.