THE BLOG

Why Skimmable Content Is More Valuable Than Deep Content

05/06/2015 01:33 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2016

The diversity of content available today is astonishing. From bite-sized listicles and gif-based Buzzfeed articles to lavishly-designed, intricate whitepapers and eBooks, marketers, entrepreneurs, and experts everywhere are looking to cash in on the trend of content marketing.

Of course, content marketing is more than just a trend--it's a solid, long-term strategy that almost anyone can use to attract new visitors and encourage greater brand loyalty over the course of months and years. The common consensus is that the more detailed and the more in-depth your content is, the better results you'll achieve. On the whole, I agree with that statement; in-depth content tends to be more insightful and more informative than pieces designed to be skimmed over. However, skimmable pieces tend to be more valuable than their in-depth counterparts. Allow me to explain.

Attention Spans Are Low and Dropping Lower

If you can get two identical people to read an article, one of which is designed to be skimmed and the other of which prioritizes depth of content, the person reading the deeper content will be left with a greater impression of the brand that produced it. However, in the real world, you will never get the chance to do this one-to-one comparison.

People are hungry for fast content because attention spans have plummeted in recent years. Most people read during their lunch breaks or while waiting in line somewhere, and are only interested in high-level information. While the readership of skimmed content will be left with a weaker impression than the readership of deep content, the size of the skimmed content audience is high enough to compensate for the difference.

Skimmable Articles Have Catchier Titles

Because of their inherent structures, skimmable articles tend to have much catchier titles, and catchier titles mean a larger, more interested audience. The listicle is an example of the effects of this phenomenon; articles that reference a numbered list tend to be far more popular than articles with a standard sort of title. When you write a piece of content with the intention of having it skimmed for meaning, the titles practically write themselves, and you'll attract a far greater audience when you move to syndicate the piece.

Skimmable Content Forces You to Think About What's Most Important

When you're writing "deep" content, you generally write in longer form, which allows you more flexibility when examining the ins and outs of your subject matter. When you're writing more skimmable content, however, you're forced to think about which bits of your piece are most important to your incoming readership.

While writing a list or an article with multiple subheadings, you have to take a great deal of considerations and cut them down to only what are the most important for an understanding of the topic. In effect, it makes you a more concise, more organized writer, and that means your pieces end up having greater meaning.

Deep Content Takes Longer to Develop

In-depth content is more effective at forming good impressions of your brand, and its information is more detailed and useful. Aside from the qualities that make skimmable content more popular, its biggest weakness is its ROI. From a monetary perspective, deep content might appear to be more valuable because it costs more to produce, but it's actually less valuable because of its return compared to the investment it requires.

The big drawback here is the sheer amount of time it takes to develop a deep piece. Because this content often requires original research, it could be days or weeks before you even have enough information to write something. Then, it takes additional time to craft a piece long and detailed enough to support that research. In the time it takes to produce one deep content piece, you could produce 15 or more skimmable pieces, all of which could generate a similar return.

Skimmable Content Carries Faster

Skimmable content also lends itself to social sharing more than its deeper counterparts. Because readers can glance at it and form a quick impression, they're more likely to share it with their friends and followers. Content that seems overly detailed or drawn out tends not to get shared as often because users understand that fewer people (especially their friends and followers) are willing to dig in. And because skimmable content is faster to read, it also circulates faster, giving you more visibility over a shorter period of time.

A Note on the Importance of Deep Content

Despite skimmable content being more valuable, on average, deep content still has an important place in your content marketing strategy. When customers dig deep on your site after being introduced to your brand, you'll need at least a handful of landmark pieces to cement your reputation. Deeper content also attracts more external links, giving you greater domain authority and a better reputation in the overall community.

As you might imagine, the key is forming a balance between in-depth and skimmable content pieces. While skimmable content is, overall, more valuable, each type of content has its own advantages and disadvantages, and each should be used for the betterment of the overall campaign.