Is Long Form Content Still Viable Today?

by Sherice Jacob

Last updated on July 31st, 2017

As soon as I mention the words “long form content”, people seem to start nodding off to sleep. Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, with more bite-sized content available on-demand across a variety of devices. Does long form content even have a place on the web anymore?

Absolutely it does! Need proof? Here are four examples of long-form content done right (and how they do it).

The Remarkable Story of the Underwater Internet

When you think about it, the Internet is a pretty amazing thing. With transatlantic, underwater cables relaying data thousands of miles around the world, it’s a wonder that it even works at all sometimes. And all we need to connect to it is a device that fits in the palm of our hands.

BuiltVisible, a firm in the UK, has released long form content called Messages in the Deep. It shares the story and timeline of how underwater cables were designed, but also how they are repaired (and the ramifications of what happens when they aren’t) to illustrate just how interconnected things are.

deep

For example, the tsunami in Japan in 2011 destroyed nearly all of the underwater cables in the area. Five years prior, an earthquake in Hong Kong severed 80% of the cable connections between Taiwan and the world, obliterating half of Hong Kong’s Internet capabilities and setting its banks scattering for help.

The story even goes into details on how these vital cables, and the transmissions they send, are being used by the NSA and other security and spy organizations to monitor the conversations of terrorists, as well as the unfortunate citizens who are inadvertently caught in the “web” of communications.

How They Do It: This content weaves a tale of engineering marvels, of “firsts”, and of covert operations all told in a way that grips the reader and makes them ask themselves “what’s next?” Even if you know (or care) very little about the structural integrity of the cables that make up the backbone of the Internet, the sheer variety of discovery, intrigue and awe will keep you clicking.

Climbing in Iceland with Loki

Loki is the Norse god of tricks and deceit. And climber Kitty Calhoun clearly felt the otherworldly presence of the Norse legend as she ran into obstacle after obstacle while exploring the ice caves and mountains of Iceland.

loki

Reading snippets of text like the one below, it’s hard not to feel yourself right alongside the climber, as they tell harrowing details like this:

“Either my strength had to come from me – or else from God. I chose God. A calm confidence settled over me and that made all the difference. If it weren’t for this peace, I could have easily panicked when the ice continued to shatter as I tried to find a purchase for my tool over the mushroom. Panic tends to rapidly suck the remaining strength from throbbing forearms. The hand can no longer grip the tool enough to guide and accurate swing. As a last ditch effort, one starts to fumble for a screw, knowing there isn’t enough strength to place it. The mind races: What do I do? What do I do?”

From a miscommunication on the type of vehicle they needed to get to their chosen climbing spot, to issues with the climb itself, it seemed that Loki was pulling out all the stops against this determined crew.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was the narration of some arctic wilderness exploration show. Instead, this is a piece told by one of the employees of extreme outfitter Patagonia, in their blog, The Cleanest Line.

How They Do It: Bloggers on The Cleanest Line don’t even mention Patagonia as part of their content. But they do talk about their tools, the weather, and their corporate and social responsibility to sustainable products. These are all things that the core demographic of Patagonia holds near and dear to their hearts. When the message, the medium and the motive align, great things happen for both customers and company.

Forget Water or Peanuts on Your Flight…How About an eBook?

eBook reader Kobo (remember them?) may not be as popular in the U.S. and Canada as it is overseas, but perhaps a little in-flight reading will change that. Kobo recently announced a partnership with Southwest Airlines and vendor Global Eagle Entertainment to launch a free e-reading platform for passengers of Southwest.

kobo

Through the platform, Kobo offers curated e-book discovery of around 140 different ebooks (and growing). Around 85% of those ebooks are full-text editions, while the remainder can be bought on landing. Most of the books are from the “big five” publishers (Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster Inc., HarperCollins, etc.) so flyers don’t have to worry about clogging up their e-readers with a bunch of no-name ebook junk.

How They Do It: Reading is the most popular pastime on flights, and what better way to get you brand “in the hands” of potentially millions of people than with an in-flight reading program? By hooking up users with free ebooks from well-known publishers, Kobo also gets to showcase its product in a way that makes people feel comfortable and receptive to it.

eBooks: Part of This Complete Breakfast

In yet another innovative move that puts ebooks at the forefront of branding, cereal maker General Mills is using its well-known Cheerios brands to “Cheer on Reading” through the use of free ebooks.

cheerios

Nine different children’s ebooks are available which can be downloaded thanks to a redeemable code on boxes of Cheerios. What may surprise you is that prior to making ebooks available, actual books codes could be redeemed from various boxes of Cheerios for books sent via mail. With ebooks, General Mills and Cheerios hope to expand their book offerings through a partnership with Simon & Schuster’s children authors and illustrators.

Here again, although Cheerios itself isn’t mentioned, the fact that they put such an emphasis on the importance of reading helps further ingrain the brand with families of young children. In addition, many parents can attest to the love of simplicity that Cheerios brings to the table for all ages. As a brand that champions reading, General Mills and Cheerios are further solidifying their commitment to parents and little ones by continuing to make their brand relevant as kids age and go through school.

What Are Your Thoughts on Long Form Content?

Is long form content here to stay or are its uses dwindling because of our shorter and shorter attention spans? Have you seen other examples of long form content that works really well in the context of their offer? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Sherice Jacob

Sherice Jacob helps website owners improve conversion rates with custom design, copywriting and website reviews.  Get your free conversion checklist and web copy tune-up by visiting iElectrify.com.

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  1. Steve Czetli says:
    September 2, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    I’d like to think it is. “What is Code? ” the 38,000 word article in Businessweek is reportedly doing well. But the number of people and length of time it took to produce would be hard to sell to a client. Still, it demonstrates that important topics, done well, will attract readers and impact brand more deeply than content that is thin and short. Even when not read, the positive buzz accompanying such pieces can enhance brand.

    BTW, this article by Ms Jacob just gives examples of good long content; it lacks proof that anybody read these lengthy articles. So aren’t we left with the same question you started out with. Is anybody reading them? Why no stats?

    • Alan says:
      September 2, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      I don’t this piece was necessarily about long articles (like blog articles). It’s about different forms of long form content and how it can be implemented well…

    • September 3, 2015 at 7:40 am

      Hi Steve,

      I think you answered your own question — “the number of people it took and the time it took to produce would be hard to sell to a client”. If so many people are shying away from long form content purely based on its length, it’s pretty hard to get good, solid statistics about how well it sells.

      The truth is, we just don’t know.

      But you can bet I’m keeping a finger on the pulse, and as soon as I find out something, CrazyEgg readers will be the first to know!

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