We listened to Alexis talk via Skype, for our social media class. Most of the talk was about how we could use Twitter, but I was struck by his thoughts on writing for the web.
Alexis used to work for Wired Science before, and talked about evolving Wired.com’s science coverage from really short, snarky pieces (the Gawker model), to slightly longer blogposts– accurately reported, but still fun enough that they got spread around the internet and read.
I guess in the age of Facebook ‘Like’s and Retweets, it’s easy for a story to go viral.
His point about the robot sharks, was that it’s worth considering the reader perception. Sometimes it makes sense to say ‘robot’, rather than a longer technical term, both because people connect with it, but also because it gets spread.
I got a surprise, however, when he talked about articles on The Atlantic’s blog; Alexis said people really enjoyed reading really long pieces.
So much so that they found a direct correlation between traffic and length. In fact, he said their most successful pieces were 3000 word syllabuses from professors, with included reading lists.
I thought that was pretty amazing. Certainly the assumption in a lot of web and blog writing is that short, snarky pieces are thought to be the only successful way to get traffic.
It was nice to hear that people will read longer pieces even on the web. (That’s something that I also read about Slate.com).
Of course, it is for The Atlantic’s blog. I couldn’t find their reader demographics online, but The Atlantic print magazine’s readers average age is around 50 (according to the 2010 report of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism).
That’s probably slightly older than the average Gawker reader…
Updated 10/9/10 at 11:50 p.m.: After looking around the internet for a picture of a Robot Laser Shark in Space, I had to settle for this picture of a cybernetic laser shark, by Jesse McGibney.
If anyone comes across (or has the time to create/Photoshop) a better picture of a robot laser shark in space, do send it along, that would be pretty awesome.