What is short-form content? How is it reshaping the digital publishing industry? More importantly, how can you use it to your benefit?
As attention spans have shortened and interests have changed, publishers have to adapt to the effects of technology. With all of the content that’s out there, it can become overwhelming to maintain focus as a reader, which makes it equally hard to keep audiences engaged.
Keep reading to better understand how content has changed and what the digital publishing industry can do to adapt.
The Evolution of Attention
A goldfish used to be a prime example of a short attention span. Now, humans actually lag behind goldfish. Over the course of just two decades, the average human attention span has shrunk from 12 to 8.25 seconds, while goldfish maintain a 9-second attention span. On social media, it’s even shorter. Facebook revealed that users spend, on average, 2.5 seconds or less with a single piece of content in their feed.
Today’s audiences have an evolving appetite for content impacted by the mindset to go digital, mobile, and social at the same time. As a matter of fact, multi-screening has become a habitual practice for 71% of Americans. That’s a 13% increase from 2020.
Overview of Short-Form Content
Short-form content is an easily consumable, snackable, bite-sized piece of information that can be “swallowed” on-the-go quickly and at once. It accepts how audience demand and interest has changed, and offers content that fits that space.
Examples of Shorter Digital Content
Here’s a list of the most popular short-form content examples online:
- Short e-book or PDF guide
- Short video
- Social media post
- Case study or report
- Checklist, etc.
Have a look at how Lifehack.org greets its visitors on its e-porch with a 5-minute cheat sheet on time management and weekly time breakdown.
Advantages of Short-Form Content for Online Publishers
Making media of all kinds available on the Internet, digital publishers should give preference to smaller bits of content in order to gain the following benefits.
Meeting Audience Needs and Expectations
In today’s fast-spinning world, people want content in smaller portions, because they aren’t willing to spend hours digesting massive ones. Instead, they need something that can communicate the message straight-to-the-point and can be easily consumed.
That’s when business leaders and marketers should listen carefully to customers’ wishes, meet their expectations, and ensure customer satisfaction.
For example, Stefan Aronsen, a marketer and podcaster, decided to cut his long 1-hour recordings into 15-minute pieces after learning that his audience prefers shorter episodes.
Grabbing Attention Quickly
Typically, such content hooks a person instantly with an attention-grabbing element. You might want to emphasize your brand identity and connect with your customers on an emotional level immediately. You can do that with a strong brand voice by using emotion and humor.
Generating Leads and Conversions
Short downloadable guides, demos, samples, and the like are often used by marketers for email lead generation.
CareerFoundry, for instance, uses a lead generator, aka lead magnet, on the website. It’s a free short course popup.
Faster Creation Time
Tiny slices of content don’t take much time to produce.
Besides, there are some time-saving tricks when you can break larger content into pieces and give it in portions. On top of that, you can repurpose it on different digital marketing channels.
How to Succeed in Digital Publishing with Shorter Content
Follow some proven tips and tricks illustrated by examples below.
Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
People search for quality information in a concise form. But what kind of data do they expect from you? That’s when you should match content with the needs of your target audience.
First, you should define what your customers or leads want and need, and then focus on substance and depth in content: research, statistics, facts, numbers, etc.
Alternatively, it can be a first-hand experience. See how Tal Gur, Founder of Elevate Society, emphasizes his expertise while offering a free guide to reach big life goals – the exact process that allowed him to hit 100 life goals in ten years.
Apply the 80/20 rule: 80% of your content must be pure value and 20% should be allocated on product or brand promotion.
Leverage Short E-Books
Whether you’re an ebook writer or a marketer who uses ebooks for business promotion, you should know the following. Statista predicts that the global ebook market will continue its fast growth rate and reach nearly 18.7 billion in value by 2026.
Selling ebooks has become a profitable business venture for authors. Carol Tice, Founder of Make A Living Writing, describes how she earned $45,000 self-publishing ten ebooks. One of her principles – shorter is better. Plus, short ebooks take less time to write but typically have the same price tags as long ones.
Produce Short Video Content for Social Sharing
Videos have a higher persuasive power than any other type of content.
A social video generates 1200% more shares than image and text content combined. In addition, consider this: 76% of customers said they had purchased a product or service after watching a video about it.
Create shorter video content like:
- Event marketing video
- Video advert
- Teaser for an upcoming product/service release
- Promotional gif, etc.
Remember: whenever you write text for video, you should adopt an appropriate tone to enhance your brand’s connection with the audience.
Optimize Length for the Content Type
Pay attention to the size of your digital content and follow the recommended lengths for text, video, and audio content.
An ideal length of a short-form text is under 1,200 words. So, considering the reading speed, your written copy shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to read.
It’s better to keep an educational video under 12 minutes, if it’s a course video, for example.
Proceed with caution, if you go over 12 minutes, because you’ll lose people. According to Wistia, videos up to two minutes in length get the most engagement (see the infographic of correlation between audience engagement and video length).
If you tap into the world of social media marketing, your video should be much shorter: between 15 and 60 seconds (TikTok videos, YouTube shorts, Instagram reels, and so on).
Short audiobooks are normally between 1–3 hours.
If you’ve decided to go with mini-podcasting, try to make your podcast up to 20 minutes. For marketing a podcast, you may create audiograms (short podcast snippets) that fit best for social platforms.
Offer Content With Direct Answers
“People seek rapid and brief answers to their questions and concerns on the Internet. That’s why businesses use web calculator solutions (finance, quote, cost, ROI, health/medical, and others) to enhance their eCommerce and lead generation capabilities,” says Anthony Martin, Founder and CEO of Choice Mutual.
“Following this trend at Choice Mutual, we embedded a funeral cost calculator on the website for users to identify their ideal final expense insurance coverage,” he adds.
Then there are score calculators or performance graders.
For instance, WordStream, an online software solution for digital advertising, offers a Google Ads Performance Grader to evaluate business ad campaigns.
Enable Mobile Compatibility
You need mobile-oriented content in the first place, as mobile consumers outnumber desktop ones. In December 2022, 60% of online visits came from mobile, while only 37% – from desktops, compared to 55% and 43% correspondingly in 2021.
Promoting the course, TheCopyCure creators highlight that it is mobile- and tablet-friendly, and a student can choose any format: written transcript, audio, or video.
Indeed, there are different types of consumers: readers, listeners, and watchers. In his blog post “Shift Happens: Are You a Reader, a Listener or a Watcher”, Bob Baker, an author and music marketing expert, caters to the needs of all the three groups giving relevant links to the suitable content for each one.
Mark Pierce, CEO at Colorado LLC Attorney, shares his company’s experience of providing a wide range of format choices and names several helpful tools for changing the formats automatically:
“Trying to meet the needs of our clients, we turn short PDFs and ebooks on LLC business registration into audiobooks. For this, we leverage AI narration technologies to save on hiring professional narrators.
AI text-to-voice solutions like DeepZen, Mur.ai, Narakeet, or Lovo.ai, for example, help transform text into audio content with an emotionally rich and naturally rhythmic voice.
Additionally, you can use AI tools like ArticleVideoRobot, InVideo.io, or Synthesia.io to convert texts into short videos for social media.”
Use Powerful Words and Numbers to Grab Attention
Powerful words are often used by marketers in titles and calls to action to lure content viewers to their pages.
Some examples of power words that convert are:
Offering audio training on the homepage, Marie Forleo, writer and entrepreneur, uses the following power words: you, get, free, instant, fast. She also indicates that there are three steps to take.
Numbers work the best in blog article titles and news headlines, as they give readers a sense of information value which is predictable and measurable. In a study of headlines, Buzzsumo defined the most engaging numbers measured by average Facebook engagements: 10, 5, 15, 7, and 20.
Final Thoughts: Content “Snacks” for Your Audience
The Internet is overflowing with infographics, bite-sized audios or videos, and limited-character posts. That’s the new normal after social media reduced people’s attention span, disrupted the way businesses sell to consumers, and changed the digital marketing landscape altogether.
But there’s no reason to complain. You can use a shorter content style to your advantage and meet your audience where they are.
Rachel Melegrito left her career as a university instructor to become a full-fledged content writer. She is also a licensed occupational therapist and a budding SEO strategist.