Content – Long and Short Copy: Predictions for the Future
One of the longest standing debates in marketing is over what’s better — long or short copy.
The followers of the short copy gospel say that people don’t like to read, especially in the modern age, so there’s no reason to write long copy. They believe that long sales letters and web pages will get ignored and never be read. Instead, it’s better to use pictures and graphics to get customers’ attention.
The long copy faithful, on the other hand, believe that copy is the secret to any sales success. More copy to them means more sales.
Yes, These are both generalizations, but they summarize succinctly the two different schools of copy length. So who’s right?
David Ogilvy is probably the most famous advertising personality there is. He not only built the agency he founded, Ogilvy & Mather, into one of the biggest and most successful in the world, but he also wrote two popular books on the subject: Confessions of an Advertising Man in 1963 and Ogilvy on Advertising in 1983.
In Confessions, he had the following to say on the subject of long copy:
“There is a universal belief in lay circles that people won’t read long copy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Claude Hopkins once wrote five pages of solid text for Schlitz beer. In a few months, Schlitz moved up from fifth place to first. I once wrote a page of solid text for Good Luck Margarine, with most gratifying results.
Every advertisement should be a complete sales pitch for your product. It is unrealistic to assume that consumers will read a series of advertisements for the same product. You should shoot the works in every advertisement, on the assumption that it is the only chance you will ever have to sell your product to the reader—now or never.
Says Dr. Charles Edwards of the Graduate School of Retailing, at New York University, “the more facts you tell, the more you sell. An advertisement’s chance for success invariably increases as the number of pertinent merchandise facts included in the advertisement increases.”
In a later chapter, Ogilvy puts an exclamation point on his argument:
“Long copy sells more than short copy, particularly when you are asking the reader to spend a lot of money. Only amateurs use short copy.”
Content is moving beyond a 500-word blog post. Consumers and B2B buyers simply want more depth and value than short content can provide. Even if your 500-word post does attract significant traffic, it has an inherently short life span.
Orbitmedia’s yearly blogging survey shows that the most successful bloggers are spending more time creating longer posts. The average length of a typical blog post has risen from 808 in 2014 to 1,142 in 2017.
These longer posts are attracting more audience attention. The percentage of bloggers reporting “strong results” goes up steadily with the average word count of their posts:
While short blog posts still can serve a marketing purpose — attracting subscribers, promoting thought leadership — the most successful will re-evaluate short-form content as the basic unit of content marketing. Ungated long-form content is vital to meeting audience expectations.
Content marketing is long overdue for a radical redesign, and all signs indicate the next iteration is already in progress. What content is, what forms it can take, how we amplify and measure it — these fundamental aspects of the discipline are all up for debate. It’s up to all of us to stay flexible, stay up-to-date, and most importantly, keep listening to what the audience says it needs.