Longform and user needs
In this light, we’d like to take a closer look at longform journalism. We wrote a blog about the subject, highlighting 5 great examples. We found that “when readers are given an interesting subject, a compelling narrative and the opportunity to delve deeper [...], it’s not so surprising to see average attention times of between 15 and 18 minutes.”
How do longform and user needs go together? Well, three of the needs seem to lend themselves particularly well for a longform approach: ‘give me perspective’, ‘educate me’, and ‘inspire me’. They call for strong storytelling, background information, analysis and a wide range of creative audiovisual elements.
Give me perspective
As the name of this need suggests, it's about taking a broader view of a certain subject. In the words of Shishkin: “That’s where analysts and experts rule, unpacking a complex argument in relation to what it means for a regular person.” These kinds of articles revolve around opinions and quotes. You'll often see profiles of an expert on the subject in these articles, an analysis or an interview. Of the three needs, this one might provide the least room for creativity or visual outbursts.
‘Educate me’ stories help users to learn more about a specific topic. They feed readers' curiosity or unravel a complicated topic to its basic components. Longform story building can help users connect with something intricate like space travel or the rise of populism. Using nothing but text here could scare readers off: the most typical formats for an ‘educate me’ piece are a Q&A article, a listicle or a ‘how to’ video.
The quintessential ‘inspire me’ piece is about someone achieving something significant, despite all odds. Classic storytelling, and longform by nature. It’s people-driven, so readers can easily relate. And, of course, the more interesting, inspiring or surprising the subject the better.
Dmitry Shishkin adds a specific category to the inspire me catalogue: solution journalism. Especially Millennials and Gen Z generations seem to have a liking for these pieces. They don't just want to read about what's wrong in the world, but also what can be done to change and improve it. At its core, inspire me stories help audiences think more about their social responsibility and make them feel proud of or for other people. The most typical format for this user need is a ‘first-person’ feature or a historical story, with lots of personal photographs.