I'm a fan of long-form journalism. I enjoy in-depth analysis and complex narrative structures. More important, I enjoy well-written stories. Over the holidays, in fact, I read several stories I've been saving on Instapaper, most of them more than 5,000 words.
It's true that we don't always have time to read long-form articles; however, when we do take the time to read them, I believe we're better people. The best long-form stories challenge us, give us news ideas and let us experience people and situations we'd never experienced before.
There's value, though, in short-form thinking. Clive Thompson, in his January column for Wired, says that short-form thinking (e.g., Twitter and Facebook updates) are catalysts for long-form meditation and that a lot of this meditation and analysis is found on blogs.
"It used to be that only traditional media, like magazines or documentaries or books, delivered the long take," Thompson wrote. "But now, some of the most in-depth stuff I read comes from academics or businesspeople penning big blog essays, Dexter fans writing 5,000-word exegeses of the show, and nonprofits like the Pew Charitable Trusts producing exhaustively researched reports on American life."
Thompson cites a study that shows the most popular blog posts are the longest ones, 1,600 words on average. According to ViperChill's analysis of 20 posts from four of the world's most popular blogs, readers do prefer longer entries.
"What you say is far more important than how much you say, but length does matter," Glen Allsopp wrote. "The longest post had 9,334 words while the shortest only had 232. On average, however, the posts had 1,610 words."
I challenge you this year to make time to read more long-form stories if you don't already. Get involved while reading them, too, by leaving comments for the writers and demanding more analysis and in-depth discussion. I promise you'll be better off in the long term by doing so. And if you're wondering, this blog entry is only 330 words long.