Is 2023 the year of long-form content?

Toby Armiger
6 minute read | Posted 22nd February 2023
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Standing out online has always been about capturing your audience’s attention and – most importantly – keeping it. Recently, short-form content platforms and features such as TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and even Tweets have resolutely pushed short-form content into the top spot.

Quick doses of information and dopamine became the order of the day, with catchy six-second videos and breezy listicles dominating the online scene. However, certain landmarks are hinting at a shift towards long-form content regaining its online popularity.

Long-form vs. short-form content

The truth is that the boundary between long-form and short-form is somewhat variable. There are some who say that more than 700 words is a long-form piece of written content, whereas others would say that more than 1,500 words is where that definition begins. What makes this an even more complicated definition is the fact that both written pieces and videos can be long-form, as both are considered content in the online world.

In short, there isn’t a clear definition of the two forms floating around. We can put some loose ranges around them using data from several content marketing platforms, as we have done below:

  • Written content: Generally, anything under 1,000 words is considered short-form, while anything over 1,000 is considered long-form.
  • Video content: Generally, anything under 10 minutes is considered short-form, while anything over 10 minutes is considered long-form.

A more holistic way to define long-form and short-form content is to think of the piece in terms of both depth and length. How long is the content, whether written or filmed, and how deeply does it explore a topic?

Robust, authority-building content that dives deeply into a topic and falls towards the longer end of the spectrum could comfortably be called long-form. Short bites of information that explore a shallower area of a given topic are generally considered short-form.

Where do you find long-form or short-form content?

The internet is a big place, so any guidebook to its various corners is guaranteed to be incomplete. That said, long-form written content will typically appear as lead magnets, downloadable resources, on news platforms, or as think pieces or deep dives on blogs. Long-form video content is prevalent on platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, and other browser-based video-sharing platforms.

Short-form articles are common boredom busters on platforms such as BuzzFeed. However, they are also an essential part of content marketing that many companies and brand builders utilise. The boredom economy has driven a sharp uptick in short-form popularity in recent years, so content marketers and social media strategists have been riding and driving this wave.

Interestingly, short-form video content began as a nucleus on apps such as Vine and TikTok. However, it has been steadily carving a niche for itself on larger video-sharing platforms thanks to the popularity it has been enjoying.

When did short-form content become king?

To understand whether 2023 will be the year that long-form content regains top-dog status, it’s important to explore how short-form content has grown and when the reigning title changed hands.

A timeline of short-form platforms

Social media as we know it today is the most concentrated location of short-form content, encapsulating everything from micro-blogging to short, snappy videos. Platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr – founded in 2006 and 2007 respectively – encouraged the popularisation of microblogging and short-form written commentary.

Then, slowly, quietly, the landscape began to change. Instagram found its legs in 2010, and just three years later, Vine – the first short-form video-sharing platform of its kind – came to life.

Dominoes began to fall, with several other existing platforms introducing or enhancing their video-sharing features to compete with Vine’s popularity. Vine’s downfall began in 2016, when Instagram introduced a 15-second video format for posting. Despite attempting a similar change, Vine eventually fell to the tide of other apps with more comprehensive features in 2017.

Vine stars migrated to other platforms, awaiting a new home – one that finally came with the rise of TikTok (formerly in 2018. Since then, the impressive popularity of this short-form video-sharing platform (and others) has prompted the creation of features such as Reels, YouTube Shorts, Snapchat’s Spotlight, and even a LinkedIn short-form video format.

Why did short-form become so popular?

One question remains: why is short-form content so popular?

We all know the addictive feeling of losing hours to the dreaded scroll. The invention of the ‘infinite scroll’ in 2006 ensured that users could continue scrolling for hours and hours without the previously necessary interruption of a ‘next page’ selection. This feature has become prevalent across many platforms, most notably short-form content-sharing platforms such as TikTok.

Short-form content is inherently faster to consume than long-form content, providing a small dopamine hit with every encounter. Paired with the infinite scroll mechanic, these platforms allow their users to mainline dopamine on an easy-to-access platform. This stimulates the human dopamine-reward pathway, which encourages users to return again and again.

This cocktail of human psychology and technological prowess is a key driver of the popularity of platforms trading in short-form content.

Signs that 2023 could be the year of long-form content

However, as with anything concerning the online world, things are always changing. There are hints popping up around the net that indicate that long-form content – articles and videos alike – is rising in popularity once more.

People are watching for longer

  • YouTube success hinges on watch time. YouTube tends to push longer videos to the top of the recommended feed, as longer videos bump a user’s Total Watch Time. Beyond that, the average length of a YouTube video is around 14 minutes, indicating that creators are responding to user demand for longer and higher-quality content.
  • Short-form video lengths are increasing. The short-form video-sharing features on various social media platforms are seeing an increase in length – by popular demand. TikTok increased its available video length to 10 minutes, while Instagram’s Reels feature now offers up to 90 seconds of air time.

People are reading and writing more

  • Tweet character limit will possibly jump from 280 to 4,000. As Twitter engagement tends to favour the longest tweets, new Twitter owner Elon Musk has hinted that the platform may increase its character limit to a massive 4,000 characters.
  • Longer LinkedIn posts perform better than short ones. Data suggests that longer LinkedIn posts enjoy better performance, as they are more widely shared and encourage more users to engage with the quality of the content.
  • Content marketing industry is on an upward trend. Especially in the B2B sector, content marketing is becoming vastly more important to business owners and marketers alike.

Takeaway: battle disengagement by being well-rounded in your marketing strategy

So, what do these hints mean for your ongoing content marketing strategy?

Quality content remains king. Consumers are gravitating towards companies that they can connect with, craving both long-form authoritative content and short-form humanising content. Your ideal avenue is contextual, with B2B companies more likely to benefit from long-form articles than B2C. However, this is entirely industry dependent.

Across the board, both short-form and long-form content types offer potential benefits.

Benefits of short-form

  • Easy to digest. The main strength of this kind of content is how easy it is to digest, especially when focusing on single concepts.
  • Especially with large corporate bodies, it’s easy for customers to feel disconnected from brands. Short-form content offers a way to build trust with customers, driving brand loyalty.
  • Quick to create and publish. While long-form content takes a long time to create and refine, short-form content is quick and easy to create. This minimises the resources you need to create high-quality brand communications.
  • Easily shareable. Word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) is an essential part of any marketing strategy. With the shareable nature of short-form content, this is a great way to drive WOMM through your various social media platforms.

Benefits of long-form

  • Excellent for SEO. Google loves long-form content, as it offers more opportunities for backlinking and rich, long-tailed keywords that make sense in context.
  • Demonstrates authority in a vertical. Long-form content encourages the in-depth exploration of a topic, which in turn demonstrates authority on a given topic. This is excellent for building trust with potential consumers. It’s also a powerful tool for generating lead magnets.
  • Allows you to build an evergreen content base. Short-form content is typically ephemeral, both in its form and in its content. Long-form content is more likely to be evergreen, which can continue to draw engagement without additional effort.

While it can be tempting to follow the swinging of the pendulum, these upticks in long-form content popularity don’t suggest a need for a total strategy reset. Instead, they indicate that a balanced strategy incorporating both forms is crucial.

2023 is the year of dual-pronged content strategies. Balance both sides of the scale, and you will yield great returns in the long run.