There is a general trend in online content that I think bloggers and newsletter writers in any niche can and should take advantage of.
I’m talking about long-form content.
[Note: This is a relatively dense subject that won't lend itself well to skimming. For best results, read the whole blog post from start to finish.]
What is long-form content?
It’s the antithesis of what the “blogging tips” bloggers say a blog post should be. We’re talking long—often very long—articles here, not your typical 400-word blog post.
There are two big sites that I know of—Longreads and Longform—that aggregate these long articles. They post links to the best ones they come across. Longreads defines long-form content as articles of at least 1,500 words in length.
Why is long-form content becoming more popular?
“That doesn’t make sense,” I hear someone saying. “People don’t want to read super long articles or blog posts on their computers.” Ah, how right you are. People don’t want to read 3,000-word articles on their computers, but they do on other devices.
I currently have a Kindle, a Kindle Fire, and an iPhone. It’s these types of devices—e-readers, tablets, and smartphones—that people are reading digital long-form content on. No one wants to curl up on a couch with a blanket, a mug of hot chocolate, and a laptop. But a blanket, a mug of hot chocolate, and an iPad? Yes, please. Similarly, no one wants to take a computer into the bathroom with them. But a smartphone? Duh. Everyone brings their smartphones into the bathroom. And people are drawn to read multi-thousand-word articles because it’s darn good content. You can cover a lot more ground in a lot more depth than you can with a 500-word blog post. Readers have the time to become fully informed about something.
But long-form content has been around since the dawn of journalism. Why the sudden interest by me and millions of other readers, not to mention the content publishers? (See the end of the post here for links to articles about the return and popularity of the long-form article.)
The key here is combining these more portable reading devices with free services like Pocket (formerly known as Read It Later), Readability, and Instapaper. These services make it a breeze to save articles of any length and then read them all later (when you’re good and ready) on the portable device of your choosing. They also take out all extraneous page formatting; you don’t have to deal with page columns, ads, or anything like that. You’re left with a clean, easy-to-read body of text.
So where’s the opportunity?
I think that the big opportunity here is in niche long-form blogs and newsletters. Emphasis on the niche part. And each one of these (that is, blogs and newsletters) can be either a long-form content aggregator/curator or a long-form content publisher.
The graphic below shows what I’m talking about:
So it essentially breaks down into
- How you’re going to disseminate the articles (in blog form or in newsletter form), and
- Whether you’re going to link to the long-form content (you’d be acting as an aggregator/curator) or create it yourself.
Let me clarify here that I’m talking about a high quality newsletter, not the kind of thing that people can sign up for in your sidebar before getting spammed to death with affiliate offers. I’m thinking of something along the lines of Hacker Newsletter.
You could monetize both the blog and newsletter with ads for your own products or services, affiliate ads, or regular old paid ads/links. Another option would be sponsored links/stories.
Now, the previously-mentioned long-form content curation sites (Longreads and Longform) cover a wide range of topics, from war to sports to fashion to politics. But for our purposes here, we need to figure out just how niched down you could and should get if you were to create a long-form content blog or newsletter. The following graphic shows what I think would and wouldn’t work:
Now let me say that I’m not Asian, I don’t live in a small town, I’m not into fixed-gear mountain biking, and I don’t know anything about technology startups in Omaha. Maybe those are massive, thriving markets. But my feeling is that it would either be 1) really hard to find long-form articles about those topics, or 2) really hard to write long-form articles about those topics.
But do you see why I think the other niches, the ones with the check marks next to them, would work (though extreme sports could go either way)? There are hundreds of articles written about each one of those weekly, and you could probably find enough content for blogs or newsletters focused around those topics.
So let’s recap. People are consuming more and more quality, long-form content. The big opportunity for digital publishers lies in creating niche long-form content blogs or newsletters. The niches could be relatively broad (sports) or something a little bit more narrow. Anything in a niche too narrow, though, I think would be too difficult to run. But niche down and serve the markets that are currently being ignored by the big long-form content curation sites and I think you’ve got a winner.
There’s still more that we could talk about, you know. Like what about niche long-form video creation or aggregation? Like maybe you create a video blog that only highlights videos that are at least 30 minutes long. Maybe you only create super long, detailed infographics. Maybe you create long-form content and sell it as a short Kindle ebook. Get out there and see what works! The digital publishing space in general is being revolutionized left and right. Why not get in on the action?
The point is that long-form content is back, baby, and that there is room in most niches to take advantage of this as content curators and consumers. Time to get on it.
Resources and further reading
Want to learn more? Check out these articles, sites, and services:
- Pocket – This service, formerly known as Read It Later, lets you save articles, videos, and images to look at later.
- Instapaper – This read-it-later service is great for saving articles to read on Kindles or iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, etc.).
- Readability – Another popular service that is similar to Instapaper.
- Longform – A popular long-form content aggregation/curation site.
- Longreads – Another popular long-form content aggregation/curation site.
- Long-Form Content Accounts for 40 Percent of Mobile Viewing, Say Tremor – Article at VAN
- Inside Forbes: How Long-Form Journalism Is Finding Its Digital Audience – Article at Forbes
- How Technology Is Renewing Attention to Long-form Journalism – Article at Poynter
- Amid Tweets and Slide Shows, the Longform Still Thrives – Article at Adweek
- Is long-form content creation a fad or will it stick around?
- What niches would be best or worst suited to long-form content creation and curation?
- Do you consume long-form content? If so, how? If not, why not?
- Do you have any desire to start some kind of long-form content curation, publication, or distribution portal?