4 min

Reading longform on phones

Jan 21, 2014 - The Atlantic - Sit Back, Relax, and Read That Long Story—on Your Phone

Interesting data about users reading long articles on phones.

More than 50 percent of Buzzfeed's traffic comes from mobile visits. And that includes stories that are thousands of words long.

Earlier this month, Buzzfeed published a piece called Why I Bought a House in Detroit for $500. The story ended up getting more than a million pageviews, which is notable because it is also more than 6,000 words long. The other notable thing: 47 percent of those views came from people accessing the story on mobile devices. And while people who read the piece on tablets spent an average of more than 12 minutes with the story, those doing so on phones spent more than 25 minutes—a small eternity, in Internet time.

Those stats are, if not counterintuitive, then counter-conventional: The working assumption, among media executives and most of the public who cares about such things, has long been that phones are best suited for quick-hit stories and tweets rather than immersive, longform reads. And while content producers have attempted to take advantage of the "lean-back" capabilities of the tablet (see, for example, tablet-optimized products like The Atavist), phone use has generally been seen as flitting and fleeting—the stuff of grocery store lines and bus rides.

The second screen, in other words, is quickly gaining primacy in our lives—and for immersive content as well as quick-hit stuff.

So what's the appeal? Part of it, too, is the way phones in particular are structured: That single, tab-less screen—the screen that scrolls with the flick of a finger—fits the way we most like to read.

"The immersive scroll is the oldest of mediums," Buzzfeed's editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, points out. He's joking, but he's also sort of not: There's something intuitive about the scroll as an interface. One of Buzzfeed's most significant contributions to The Way We Web Now will likely prove to be the selection of a scroll framework over a paginated one.

The popularity of longform stories—of magazine stories—is telling as, among other things, a data point. "People's intuitions about longform were wrong," Peretti puts it. "They thought, 'Oh, the Internet is about the shortest possible clips, and no one has attention spans.'" But it's hard to impugn attention spans, he says, when "we see people spending 25 minutes on their phone, reading the story."


Jan 2014 - AdWeek - BuzzFeed's Peretti - Mobile is a Better Ad Vehicle - "CEO says that ads, even long-form content performs better on phones"

Mobile banners are seen as a lousy brand vehicle, which is why so many are rushing to native ads. BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti might as well be telling the industry: rush faster. (And while you're at it, write longer stories instead of short blog posts and cheap slide shows.)

According to Peretti, mobile ads perform better for BuzzFeed than do desktop ads, in terms of clickthroughs and sharing. That's way counterintuitive to conventional online ad wisdom. His theory as to why: "People are more focused on mobile," said Peretti, who sat for a keynote interview at AdExchanger's Industry Preview conference on Tuesday. "On the desktop, there are all those distractions."

Speaking of avoiding distractions, said Peretti, people are consuming longer stuff on mobile phones than expected. Case in point: A recent 6,300-word story about a man who bought a house in Detroit for $500 has had millions of mobile views, with users spending an average of 20 minutes on the story. "That's totally counterintuitive," said Peretti. "What's not supposed to be happening in mobile keeps happening in mobile."

BuzzFeed gets more than half of its traffic on mobile devices, including half of its video views, said Peretti. And surprisingly, the phone is outpacing the tablet for audience, even for long articles. Peretti theorized that people are literally too lazy to reach for tablets on their coffee tables when their phones are often on their person.

He predicted that the heavy mobile consumption trend would have major implications on publishing tactics in 2014. On their way out: infographics (unless they are mobile-friendly), slideshows and even paginated articles. "Its about the infinite scroll," said Peretti.

BuzzFeed is starting to see significant traffic referrals from Pinterest, particularly on weekends for more visual stories. In those cases, more traffic is coming from tablets than phones.

The quiz form is something Peretti thinks more publishers should experiment with.

Related:

#media - #writing - #longform - #mobile - #blog_jr

By JR - 777 words
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