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Even on Smartphones, People Still Reading Long-Form Journalism, Study Finds

May 6, 2016

[Shuterstock]
[Shuterstock]

In recent years, news media have worked to make their reporting accessible to the roughly seven-in-10 American adults who own a smartphone.

But despite the smaller screens and an audience prone to click in and out of news, on cellphones the U.S. public still spends more time on average with long-form news articles than with short-form news, the Pew Research Center finds. Traditionally staples of print journalism, articles of 1,000 words or longer allow journalists to include more sources, points of view and context, and consumers to engage with complex subjects in more detail.

Shorter digital news is far more prevalent than long-form content and draws more total traffic, but long-form articles are accessed at nearly the same rate, the study finds. More significant, the total time that people engage with longer articles on cellphones averages about twice the time they spend with short-form stories: 123 seconds verses 57.1 seconds.

The engagement gap between short- and long-form articles is consistent across times of day and pathways taken to access stories. While 123 seconds — just over two minutes — may not seem like much time, it’s far longer than most local television news stories today.

Both long- and short-form news articles tend to have brief life spans, the study finds. Eighty-two percent of interactions with short-form articles begin within the first two days after publication, as do 74 percent of reader interactions with long-form pieces. — Greg Beaubien

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