Mobile audience and attention spans

Newsrooms everywhere rejoiced when Pew Research Center revealed that mobile readers will stick with long stories. As audiences shift to mobile, here’s some tips to keeping them engaged on longer stories.

Is it OK to write a really long story? Answer: write only what the story merits and not a word more. In fact, if you are writing a long story, you need to justify every word. Right tight. Edit your own work before you send it to an editor or post it online.

The next time you write a story, try reading it out loud and timing it, first for one minute, then for two minutes. How much of your story did you get through? That’s how long you have with your mobile readers. Is every word important? Does your story sing?

Try these two ideas to keep your readers engaged on their phones as they read your next long-form piece of journalism. What’s great, is these ideas work well for desktop stories as well:

  1. Layer your story with extras that allow readers to interact with your story: video, photo gallery, map, timeline or pull quote.
  2. Present your story in an alternative format, such as a Q&A or a list. Anything that allows you to use bold and regular text can organize content for a reader on a phone. Your alternative story format need not be short. If you’re writing an explainer on a complicated topic, breaking it into chunks can help readers digest a deep dive into the information.