If you were to assume that the dawn of the mobile era means people are giving up reading actual article and are just snacking instead, you’d be wrong.
The Atlantic recently reported that a gorgeously illustrated 6,200-word story on BuzzFeed—which likewise gets about half its readers through mobile devices—not only received more than a million views, it held the attention of smartphone users for an average of more than 25 minutes. (WIRED’s in-depth web offerings have also attracted audiences. A profile of a brilliant Mexican schoolgirl garnered 1.2 million views, 25 percent of them from phones, and readers spent an average of 18 minutes on it.)
Little wonder that even formerly short-attention-span sites like BuzzFeed and Politico are retooling themselves to offer serious, in-depth reporting. Perhaps we really are ushering in the golden age of journalism?
A big part of this might have to do with Google changing its search algorithm to penalise low-quality, ad-heavy content. With a new focus on content quality that appeals to human and needs to be satisfying/informative, Google is forcing content producers to go back to the basics of serious journalism – write good and thoughtful stuff that people want to read. Great writing and investigative journalism is all but dead.
Like Twitter, mobile has long been underestimated: People assume that because the screen is small, the content should be too. That’s turning out to be both simplistic and wrong. No one should expect the imminent disappearance of the listicle, a story form at least as old as the Ten Commandments.
Mobile has actually enabled deep-media storytelling (incorporating video, images, texts and other visual elements) which journalists exist to capture.