Word counts for viral stories in late 2017

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

There’s some interesting figures from Newswhip as to the most engaging content on Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest in late 2017:

100 most engaged stories on Facebook

(You can see the top 20 in detail. 2 Bored Panda and one Brietbart story in there…)

Liam Corcoran:

Overall, most stories (44), fell into the ‘mid-range’ category of 251 to 750 words long. They included stories from a wide range of sites including National Geographic, the Verge, Independent.co.uk, and more.

Average word count also varied across publishers. Political site the Hill had nine stories in the top 100, with an average word count of just 371 words. Its shortest piece, a story on student loan debt forgiveness, was 158 words long. Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s four featured stories averaged 1,034 words each.

This suggests at least some problems with the “Quartz Curve” figures, although we couldn’t really see that in detail without that 251-750 category being further broken down. Five of the top 20 break the rule, but only just, being on the top end of the “shorter” category.

It’s interesting to note that around a quarter of the articles in the top 100 are greater than 1,250 words long. More proof, if it were needed, that the idea “internet = short attention span” is false.

Anyone who has done my online content strategies course (new date just announced…) will know I’m slightly sceptical of these measures. Time is a better measure than word length, because online articles can be genuinely multi-media, and thus word count can under-report actual length.

Many stories from all sites also featured video on the article page, although the video was usually supplementary to the story itself, and not intended as the main focus. One thing that almost all of the longer stories had in common, however, was a heavy emphasis on visual storytelling in conjunction with the text.

However, more fodder for the analytics research pile…

content strategyJournalismnewswhipquartzquartz curveword counts

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.