Shut Your Website Down. People Don't Read Anymore

I’m used to reading Tweets from “experts” making outlandish claims about how audiences react to content, or which method of outreach is now “dead,” so it takes something fairly incendiary to get me to engage.

Something like one of Sports Illustrated’s digital team putting a hard cap on the amount of words you can use on the web.

Nobody. Not one person, will read more than a thousand words. So spake the mastermind behind sharing Sports Illustrated’s highbrow “women in swimwear content.”

Seems conclusive. He’s had 12 years in the digital game, and he knows anything with 1,001 words in it will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

This is Bollocks. People Read.

I’ve only had 10 years in digital content creation as a professional, but I’ve been writing for the web for far longer. So it’d be easy for me to spend the next thousand words explaining exactly why Andy Gray is wrong.

Or I could see what people are reading, what they’re sharing, and whether that 1,000 word limit is actually a hard cap.

Spoiler. It’s not.

The most shared article about #GE2017 was over 1,700 words. Click To Tweet

How many of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies do you actually disagree with?” – 102,655 Facebook shares, 1,779 words

The most read Guardian article since 2010 was over 2,500 words. Click To Tweet

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations” – 3.9 million page views, 2,597 words

The most shared Daily Mail article ever was over 1,300 words. Click To Tweet

Timelessly elegant at 100: Gone With The Wind’s Olivia de Havilland celebrates milestone birthday” – 1.7m social shares, 1,363 words

Today's hottest Medium article is over 3,500 words. Click To Tweet

We analyzed thousands of coding interviews. Here’s what we learned. – Most popular Medium story (9:30am, 29/6), 3,517 words.

TL;DR? Andy Gray is full of shit. People will read more than 1,000 words. Click To Tweet

People Don’t Mind Length. They Care About Quality.

Even a cursory glance at what people share and read will show you that any talk of a word limit for an article is rubbish.

If an article is well-written, insightful and interesting, if it hooks a reader from the very beginning, and if it entertains, informs or persuades them, it will be successful. Whether it’s 30 words or 3,000 words.

So don’t listen to Andy Gray. 1,000 words might be overdoing it for an article about models with their norks on show, but if you’ve got something worth saying and that people want to read, you take as long to say it as you need to.

And not a word more.

1 Comment comments for "Shut Your Website Down. People Don’t Read Anymore"

  1. Kevin Crathern at 4:41 pm

    Just because people share theses articles does not mean they are reading them all the way through. I’d be lying if i said i never skimmed over long articles. I agree though, people do read, I just think the proof is elsewhere

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