Why we need short form content on our blogs

Chris Lovie-Tyler makes an interesting observation:

"When I first started blogging, it felt like the expectation was that blog posts should be about 500 words"

I went back through some posts and found when he started. He's right.

I've been recently thinking about how the web and such expectations have changed and how this affected the way I've blogged over the years.

When I first started properly in 2003 I wasn't really sure what I was doing or what I should be writing about. I just knew I wanted to be one of the "cool kids" and have a presence on the web.

In those days I just used to write a combination of what had been happening, some tech stuff (mainly Microsoft based) and a lot of meta posts as I tried to make SharePoint a viable blogging platform. Unfortunately, the first snapshots of that old blog are from 2004 but they serve as an indication of how things used to be.

After a while, the influence of the "Tech blogs" grew and it became more fashionable to write longer posts. Bloggers were no longer the stereotypical losers writing about their lunch and their pets - the line between blogging and journalism started to blur.

In my pre/early internet days I had written a number of letters and pieces which were published in few a different magazines; writing in a more journalistic style, therefore appealed to me but, as Chris says, the expectation became that blog posts should be 500 plus words.

Over the course of a few years blogging became less about being a representation of you on the web and more about think pieces and essays, everyone trying to one up each other with a hot take on even the smallest story.

Shorter posts disappeared from all but the most ardent of personal sites instead moving to the ever growing social networks and an era ended.

I was as guilty as anyone, a move I often regret.

Social networks were a brave new world, a movement that was going to change the world for the better but they needed money to survive and business models sadly replaced noble ideals despite all protestations to the opposite.

But that's an argument for a different day. It's just ironic that what helped destroy short form blogging became its replacement.

For most.

Constantly writing more than 500 words is hard, very hard. I had enough trouble writing 300 words a day for a year during my write365 project. I burnt out.

And this is also why many others no longer blog. Once shorter posts became almost taboo they lost much of their material. The effort required to blog on a regular basis became too great. It was far easier to throw out a tweet, a dozen, a hundred, and still feel productive with minimal effort.

But the return to indie blogging is growing in momentum. As Manton writes: "By taking microblogging back from Twitter, we create a natural place for traditional blogs to grow." While he states that "microblogging is the gateway drug for long-form content" we must not treat it as merely a stepping stone only to be discarded when the high is no longer enough.

We already made that mistake once. We need both!

  1. colinwalker says: #
    The irony! A piece stating that not all blog posts need to be 500 words is… yep, over 500 words.
    →†’
  2. hope says: #
    @colinwalker Lol but to me there’s a difference, there are short-form blog posts, and long-form ones. The short form ones might just be a little over a tweet, and the long-form ones can be thousands of words.
    →†’
  3. Thanks for reading and linking to my post, Colin!

    “Over the course of a few years blogging became less about being a representation of you on the web and more about think pieces and essays,”

    Yes, and it became very commercialised and formulaic. Thought leaders, content marketing, and all that. It’s refreshing to see the resurgence of personal blogs and a bit of experimentation again.

    “Constantly writing more than 500 words is hard, very hard.”

    Yes, it is, and that’s why I’m enjoying writing a lot of short posts again. 🙂

    →†’