RIP to the long report?


The question of just how long a piece of thought leadership should be is a hotly debated subject. There is currently a prevailing view that shorter is better, and there’s clearly a growing focus on  “snackable” content with short articles, videos, and blogs being produced in ever greater numbers, and the 100-page PDFs of old becoming a dying breed. Perhaps this isn’t too surprising: With social media and 24-hour news competing for an audience’s consideration, attention spans, we are told,  are getting collectively narrower.

The death of the 100-page PDF is undoubtedly no bad thing, but we should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you want your content to say something new and challenging, draw your audience into an engaging and inspiring journey, showcase robust research and clever analysis, and get your audience to act upon all of this, you need to be producing much more than a soundbite—you need real insights. And your efforts will be rewarded. Research we did during the course of last year—at a time when the power of those 24-hour news channels to distract was arguably at its height—showed that clients were as keen—if not keener—on  long-form reports than other, shorter forms of content.

Of course that’s not to say that this is where your sole focus should lie. For every chief executive happy to invest an hour or more in reading an in-depth piece of content, there is another that will balk at the idea of engaging with anything that will take them more than a few minutes to consume. In short, we’re all different, with different tastes, interests—and attention spans.

So where does that leave those responsible for producing content? What we think works best, given that we’re all different, is offering a range of options, with shorter form material enriching and providing an alternative entry point to longer form, flagship pieces. Doing this well has the benefit of making content extremely “shareable,” and you may even convert some of the short form aficionados to spending longer digesting some more in-depth material.

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