Average article shares typically increase with article length

Last week, I looked at how hyper-shared articles were typically longer than average.

The question then was — is this a general trend? In other words, are longer articles typically shared more than shorter ones.

To answer this, we’ve looked at the same dataset as last week — data for ten leading online publications from H2 2016.

There are fewer longer articles, but they are typically shared more

The data here is conclusive.

Whilst there are far more short articles, it is the longer articles that get shared more.

Average shares per article increases with article length to around 1,500 words per article before flattening off.

With a couple of exceptions, this pattern is consistent across publications

When we looked at each of the publications individually, the pattern was broadly repeated.

In order to keep things manageable and (relatively…) visible, we have only focussed on articles up to 1,500 words and compare each publication to its own average.

So, broadly speaking, most publications’ average shares gradually increase with word count.

The two outliers are the Huffington Post (where its shorter articles perform particularly well) and the BBC (where the reverse is true).

The Independent (the second lighter blue line) has broadly consistent performance across all article lengths.

Final thoughts

Does this mean that everyone should start writing longer articles? No. There are many factors that should be considered such as the publication’s own readership, the cost profile of longer articles and the fact that if every article was longer it wouldn’t mean that they all were shared more.

However, I think it is striking that audiences, by and large, do seem to engage more with longer, perhaps more in-depth, pieces.

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