PAY ATTENTION

Facebook drives more traffic to articles, but Twitter users spend more time reading them

Do small screens translate to shortened attention spans?

Not so, suggests a new report from Pew Research Center. Turns out mobile users are spending twice as much time reading long-form articles compared to shorter stories, the research group concluded in a report released today after studying 71 million visits collected by analytics firm Parse.ly.

To be fair, it’s still not a lot of time. Given how mobile users spend an average of 123 seconds on long-form stories, defined as articles that are 1,000 words or more, it’s apparent many of these readers aren’t getting to the end of longer pieces.

Overall, though, it appears mobile users try to reward long-form journalism with their time. Even on a phone or tablet, the more words there are in a piece, the more engaged readers are likely to be. And though short news pieces made up 76% of articles studied in this sample, long pieces attract roughly the same number of visitors per article.

The report did note major differences in reading habits depending on the referral source. People who arrive at an article from an internal link (after reading another story by the same media outlet) spend an average of 148 seconds reading long-form stories, while those coming from social media had the shortest attention spans, at 111 seconds.

Zeroing in on social referrals, the data showed Facebook is driving the vast majority of social traffic to both short and long stories, but its users were significantly less engaged compared to Twitter. On average, Facebook users spent 107 seconds reading long-form stories, almost half a minute less than Twitter users.

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