Is Slow Live Blogging the Future of Long Content?

Long Content Makeover: Slow Live Blogging

You have heard many SEO and search engines experts say that the length of a story is important. Well, this is true. Many times content length indicates the depth of research. The question is, how long is too long? Web publishers are obsessed with optimization and they take their analytics very seriously. This is because the information on their audience is imperfect, which always makes it difficult to convert reader behavior into real insight. While trends tend to correlate, occasionally they do not depict reality and analyzing traffic is usually the viable option to identify audience reception. When a trend is consistent and size worthy, it becomes almost impossible to avoid engaging in some form of speculation and this could be misleading. Today, we provide an experiment on “slow live blogging” and what long form content could mean for your blog or site.  

The Experiment

Half a dozen articles were used to conduct this experiment and the idea behind it was to identify the effect of long articles to a website. The experiment began with a short post which was to be developed over a period of time. Instead of publishing short posts each time, a new story evolved. This is referred to as slow live blogging and this is how the concept works. You first write the initial story just like any other article. When fresh news develops, you do not start over with a new article. Instead, you proceed to insert updates on top of the story. The headline and sub-headline are changed to reflect the new story and so does the URL. However, its unique node ID remains the same. Therefore, while you get a fresh headline and URL, the story still points back to the original piece. This is the same as having multiple URLs and headlines which lead to one multifaceted story. The idea behind this experiment came about because the editors felt that having a discrete article format could be insufficient when it came to covering major recurring topics. The concept of a slow live blog was mainly to give editors flexibility and speed with writing and producing news stories. Usually stories require a unique and sometimes long introduction as well as background, context and so on. These delay publishing the news item and slow live blogging provides the perfect opportunity simply to jump into a story. The reader has the option to scroll through previous updates to familiarize him or herself with the chain of events that preceded the story.  

The Blurry Line between News and Features

This concept accounted for short stories only but how would long posts be accommodated? The strategy was to continue producing features as individual stories then link them with the slow live blog or stub story as they referred to it. This technique would be great because it primarily took advantage of built up context, making the feature appear sharper with less material required to catch up. Big headings were used to identify the connection and these gave the reader a chance to backtrack and read the series. The approach was reader friendly and gave the reader easy navigation to the process of covering stories.  

Slow Live Blogging and Its Impact to Traffic

What was realized with this experiment was that slow live blogging produced fantastic changes to the site’s analytics. The bounce rates drastically dropped and the duration readers spent on site increased as well. While the results were quite impressive, it is important to note that the experiment is yet to identify the full impact of slow live blogging over time. While it is true that people have less time to read all the way through long content, slow live blogging is providing a unique way to make long form content both informative and convenient. Online content needs to stay within the confines of a certain format and this concept of blogging may be the future of long form content.  

Detriments of Long Articles

These long form articles can be detrimental on various levels. They come with technical challenges and in the experiment; they ended up overrunning the server cache and even had the site go down for a while. Another issue came in on the backend of the CMS interface which is not supposed to handle this strange form of story production. The interlinking features also drove up the time of production and consequently the costs. Human errors are also a disadvantage that cannot be ignored. This is because updating these stories meant inserting new text manually at the top of the text. The exhaustive cut and paste for updates meant more formatting work for the web producer. For these long form articles to become well adapted to the UI, they need ultra formatting. With automation, maybe slow live blogging could be the future of news reporting. This would however mean first curing the detriments that came about with the experiment and hopefully leaving the major achievements which included improved reader engagement.  

Lessons from Slow Live Blogging

There are many lessons that can be learned from this interesting way of publishing content. The first is that long form content is not dead. Correlating long articles to depth actually holds merit because slow live blogging went to provide extra information for the reader. The reception was a success and this is evident by the increased average visit duration and lower bounce rates. Averting future server crashes by streamlining the content production process would realize improved results not just for the site but the reader as well.