Stretching a Business Blog Just So Far

Lasting just over an hour, Dumbo is Disney’s shortest feature-length movie, Stacy Conradt writes in Mental Floss magazine. When Walt Disney was advised to extend the storyline, here’s what he said: “You can stretch a story just so far and after that it won’t hold together.” Interesting – the newest Dumbo movie, just released this yet, is an hour and 52 minutes long, and the story “stretches” beyond the original tale…

In blogging for business, just how far can you “stretch the story” and still have the content “hold together”? The Nielsen Norman Group examines that precise question in “Long vs. Short Articles as Content Strategy”. Jakob Nielsen explores the question in terms of cost/benefit ratios. Cost relates to the amount of time it takes to read an article, while benefits represent the value users stand to get from the online information.

One conclusion is clear, the author says: people prefer to read short articles – people tend to be ruthless in abandoning long-winded sites; they mainly want to skim highlights. But, when the assumptions change, Nielson explains, that changes the metrics. Readers who want to know everything about a problem will find value in longer, more detailed articles. Still, most of the time, short articles contain more value per word. Want many readers? Focus on short, scannable content. Want readers who really need targeted solutions to complicated problems? Focus on comprehensive coverage. The very best content strategy, Nielson concludes, is one that mirrors users’ mixed diet.

Whether it’s a Dumbo film of business blog content writing, it’s all about the value you bring to your target audience. “This is why it’s so important,” Nielson stresses, “to optimize your content strategy for your users’ needs.

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