It seemed like everyone was (and still is) talking about our short attention spans and how people only want to read short, concise stories and tweets online. However, a recent article in The Atlantic uncovers some evidence that disproves this theory. If the “short attention span” rumors were true, then why did “Why I Bought a House in Detroit for $500,” a 6,000 word Buzzfeed article, garner more than a million pageviews? On that same note, Wired’s long-form article “How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses,” received more than one million views for an average of five minutes and The New York Times’ “Snowfall” got more than 2.9 million visitors and 3.5 million page views.
Not only are people reading lengthy articles online, they’re sharing them, too. “These stories can also benefit from people’s desire to share quality stories along with Imgur pics and cat videos,” The Atlantic writes. Feature articles offer in-depth research and insight into a story, meaning readers have more to relate to and learn from.
What’s even more interesting is how readers are consuming these lengthy articles. While it may be counterintuitive, studies have shown that U.S. mobile users are happy to watch long shows and movies and read long-form content on their phones. “Why I Bought a House in Detroit for $500” maintained the average tablet user’s attention for 12 minutes, while those reading the article on smart phones spent more than 25 minutes on the page - “a small eternity, in internet time,” writes The Atlantic. It looks like one of our 2014 social media prophecies is already coming true and the move to mobile is affecting more industries than we can count.
Buzzfeed’s founder and CEO, Jonah Peretti, believes people are reading more on their mobile devices not only out of convenience (mobile devices are almost always within arm’s reach), but also because of “that single, tab-less screen--the screen that scrolls with the flick of a finger.” The Atlantic believes Buzzfeed may have found the magic recipe for long-form story success online; a format “devoid of ads and right-rail detritus - a template that presents a single story in the form of a scroll.” With 50 percent of their traffic coming from mobile devices, has Buzzfeed perfected the mobile-ready feature story format just as they perfected the compelling headlines they’re so well known for? The simple, seamless scroll enables continuous reading without interruption, while a phone screen hides any open windows, tabs and banner ads that might otherwise cause distraction on a computer or tablet.
Do you read long articles or watch shows and movies on your mobile device? Have you always done so or is this a new habit? What was the last long-form story you read online?
The AP Stylebook has long been hailed as the “Bible” for journalists. Newspaper reporters, magazine editors and even PR pros (including the BIGfish team) have relied on the famous style guide for decades to resolve questions on grammar, punctuation, abbreviations and more. Updated regularly since its initial publication in 1953, the AP Stylebook has become a must-have reference for virtually anyone who writes professionally.
Of course, not everyone abides by the AP Stylebook. Urban Dictionary describes it as “the sacred text of journalists and journalism students that is dogmatically followed regardless of whether the rule is outdated or makes the writing worse.” A bit harsh? Perhaps, but the definition does bring to mind some recent criticisms of the renowned style guide. On Monday, the Associated Press announced several changes to its style guide, including an updated entry for “phobia.” The AP is now discouraging the use of terms like “homophobia” and “Islamophobia,” with editors saying it amounts to a diagnosis of mental illness. However, not everyone agrees with the editors. George Weinberg, the psychologist who coined the term “homophobia” in 1972, commented: “We have no other word for what we’re talking about, and this one is well established. We use ‘freelance’ for writers who don’t throw lances anymore and who want to get paid for their work. ... It seems curious that this word is getting such scrutiny while words like triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13) hang around.”
Although the updated entry for “phobia” stirred up some controversy, another big announcement from the Associated Press had the opposite effect: the launch of its first Spanish-language stylebook, with more than 3,500 entries. As described by the AP itself, “Spanish-language journalists can now learn that the correct word for channel-surfing is "zapeo," sexting is best written in their language as "sextear," "submarino" is an accepted term for waterboarding and Thanksgiving day is accurately translated as "Dia de Accion de Gracias."” Several Spanish-language journalists expressed excitement at the announcement, especially for its ability to teach users meanings of words that differ in various Spanish-language countries. In our opinion, the AP’s decision to expand its style guide to other languages signifies that the reference guide is here to stay. And now that digital subscriptions are available, updates to the AP Stylebook are readily available - meaning we no longer have to wait for a new edition to be published each year. As long as the AP continues to stay modern with changes like these, the AP Stylebook isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon.