Geek

Longer Copy Is Risky, But Quality Is the Real Dealbreaker

By January 21, 2016Geek
In the content game, everyone’s concerned about size.

A casual look at major editorial players like the New York Times and WSJ quickly reveals that sponsored content is getting slicker and conspicuously longer. That might be counterintuitive to many, but with an increasing focus on on-page retention, size matters.

Conventional wisdom is that consumers have astonishingly brief attention spans. But evidence suggests, at least in print, that may only be partly true. In fact, nearly all of the sponsored posts at sites like NYTimes.com and WSJ.com tend to run at least 1,000 words, often including video and infographics as well.

The idea is that while it might be hard to get a consumer’s attention, once you have it, you can keep it as long as the content is compelling and provides clear value.

That’s not to say long copy doesn’t come without risks. If you want someone to stick around for the entire message, the quality has to be consistent from beginning to end. This Bleeker Street sponsored NY Times post titled “A Hollywood Mystery” was created to promote the film Trumbo. It runs nearly 2,000 words and reads like a detailed feature. The reader never feels like they are being sold a product, despite the fact it’s clearly labeled as sponsored content. That’s possible because the post covers an interesting subject and has the feel of something written by a seasoned journalist that cares about the subject.

Of course, copy is just part of it. The bigs are also leveraging video and infographics to tell their brand stories. HubSpot broke down the numbers on how important video content is to an overall content marketing strategy. Just using the word “video” in the subject line of an email increases open rates by 19 percent, increases clickthrough rates by 65 percent and reduces unsubscribers by 26 percent. Perhaps most significantly, 65 percent of video viewers watch at least three quarters of a video.

That means marketers have a huge window of opportunity every time a video watcher clicks “play.”

That’s not to say every brand is producing extremely long videos. Coca Cola has hundreds of videos posted, and almost all of them fall into the two-minute range. For instance, this five minute Target presentation about professional surfer Kolohe Andino and this nearly 30 minute Nike video about skateboarders in Argentina show that brands are also throwing plenty of longer video out there. With about 65,000 and 120,000 views respectively, these longer videos are a way for large brands to reach out to niche consumers.

Even with lengthier videos and blog posts, the infographic is still the straw that stirs the content marketing drink. People are visual learners. Studies suggest that people retain 80 percent of the information they see versus 20 percent of what they read and 10 percent of what they hear. Not only that, but people are also 30 times more likely to read an infographic then straight text.

That explains why so many brands are investing so heavily in them. Google’s Music Timeline, this explanation of the Syrian conflict by Slate.com and this Business Insider explanation of emotional intelligence offer a spectrum of examples.

Infographics offer more structural fluidity than copy or video. As such, there isn’t a specific template brands are gravitating to. Brands are constantly reinventing the infographic in real time to keep the conversions coming.

It’s been established for a while that solid copy complemented with video and an infographic as a visual guide is an effective way to structure a sponsored post. But what is being revealed more and more is that consumers are down to take a longer journey as long as it takes them somewhere they want to go.

Author Mason Lerner

Mason Lerner is a writer and artist living in Austin, TX. He has covered the content marketing and advertising industries for several years. He served as the business editor at the Killeen Daily Herald as well as contributing a small business column to the Houston Chronicle for several years. His work has also appeared in ESPN the Magazine, the Jewish Forward and the Associated Press.

More posts by Mason Lerner

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