Long or short?
My colleagues -- John Keller and Courtney Howard -- and myself have been having discussions lately over how long a feature article should be. There seem to be different answers for those on the web and those in a printed journal.
Shorter definitely seems to be the answer on the web. Research has shown that most digital readers want stories that begin and end on the same page.
I'm the same way. I usually tune out if a digital article has multiple page links (2,3,4, etc.) at the bottom of the first page. Unless of course it is very interesting such as an article I read last year on WashingtonPost.com about the battle against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and the formation of the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) .
That was a four-part story, with about four or five pages per part. I didn’t read it in one setting, but kept coming back to it. However, typically when I come across digital articles of that length on the web, I don’t read past the first page.
Incidentally, the Post Article by Rick Atkinson, was the best I've read on the evolution of the IED threat and how our government and military is dealing with it.
Maybe digital articles are re-emphasizing an old journalism mantra of "put everything in the first paragraph, because no one ever reads the second one."
But what about in print? Typical feature articles in our print magazine run about 3,000 words and include sidebars and multiple graphics.
The same is true for many magazines.
I find longer print features to be ideal for reading when I'm on a long flight.
What do you prefer? Would you like to see print features trimmed to match the length of most digital copy or not?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.