Recently, there has been a lot of buzz regarding long-form content. As you might of guessed, long-form content is anything that is, well, long, and is presented as an entity in its own right. Since services such as Medium have shed light on reader-friendly writing, more and more websites are seriously considering adding long-form content.
In this article, I will be discussing considerations and points that you need to consider before adding long-form content to your website.
So, What is Long-form Content?
Simply put, long-form content is longer in length, when compared to your average form of content. However, beyond that it also serves an entirely different purpose.
For example, consider the fact that long-form content thrives on the quality of discussions that it encourages, but the comments section may not always be well populated. So, long-form content can take the shape of a one-way dialogue, but its sheer quality and tone can set the mood for further debates and discussions—possibly via social media.
Going by that metric, long-form isn’t really long-form until the publication in question decides to go out of the way to present it as such. An ultra-long “ultimate guide” type article might fall within the jurisdiction of blog posts, and fail to be classified as long-form content, unless it is clearly presented as such. So, websites that do publish long-form content, take great measures to clearly distinguish these posts from other content.
Think About Yourself. . .
Make no mistake about it: long-form is difficult to edit, proof-read, and publish on a regular basis. So the obvious question is, are you ready for such investment and efforts? Will your blog/website/magazine have authors who can pull out such content regularly?
Publishing long-form content requires good investments, both in terms of time and efforts. You can go the popular route and rely on a content producer—where tasks such as technical details for video and audio, as well as Parallax effects will be taken care of. This will obviously save your time and efforts, but it will require a higher budget.
You may also need to utilize a workflow solution outside of WordPress, especially if you are working on a collaborative team model. If so, now that Editorially is no longer with us, Draft seems like the best way out.
. . . And Your Audience
This is the trickiest part. Unlike everything else, there is hardly any confirmed way to figure out whether your audience wants or needs long-form articles or not. You can possibly use metrics such as time spent on site data, the length of popular content, the type of presentation that works well with your audience, and assess from there whether long-form content might ‘click’ with your readership or not.
Next, you should consider how your audience might react to long-form content. Comments, for instance, need to be implemented differently from generic content. However, most long-form publishers do not follow a consistent model for comments. Some allow for comments right on their own websites, others do not wish to dilute the quality of their long-form content at the hands of casual comments, so they outsource the comments’ functionality to social media. Still others might decide to host their comments natively, but on a separate page or section.
You need to decide on which approach that works best for your website. Disallowing comments altogether is a tempting proposition, especially because a few casual comments can seriously affect the overall merit of your long-form content. Plus, with lengthy articles, moderating comments is a pain anyway. However, not letting your readers share their views, especially after they have invested their time and energy in reading your long-form articles, is not the wisest move.
Medium-like comments that have an inline annotation styling is a very good idea for long-form publications.
Long-form content generally has its own design considerations that you need to keep in mind. For instance, you will be better off without sidebars, and even headers and footers should be as minimal as possible.
Next, site navigation menus are better left in the background, so that your content is in the driver’s seat. Also, as a matter of personal preference, I refrain from placing advertisements or promotional stuff anywhere near the long-form articles.
In addition, if at all possible, you should consider making your content available in a downloadable format to readers, either as PDF or mobi, or any other similar format. There are a crazy number of WordPress plugins that let you do this, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Even if you decide not to, be very sure that your page is ready for print output if need be, with all audio and video content as well as Parallax effects removed in the print CSS.
Incorporating long-form content on your websites requires a lot of careful planning and technical considerations. However, these hurdles are secondary, especially considering the benefits that you can derive from long-form articles. Not only is such content timeless, but it can go a long way in earning you a loyal body of readers and website visitors. Such readership might be willing to criticize every wrong move you make, but they will also take great measures to spread the good word about you, if you manage to do a good job.
Long-form content is more about reader engagement and an emotional bonding with your audience, which is otherwise absent in mainstream traditional articles or content.
Image Credits: Matt Kowal | jDevaun | Annie Hall | Jessica Esch
What do you think of long-form content? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Sufyan bin Uzayr is a freelance writer and Linux enthusiast. He writes for several print magazines as well as technology blogs, and has also authored a book named Sufism: A Brief History. His primary areas of interest include open source, mobile development and web CMS. He is also the Editor of an e-journal named Brave New World. You can visit his website, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.