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Fast Company – Why Is Google Highlighting Long Form Articles?

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By Lily Hay Newman

August 9, 2013

Google is now calling out long articles in a special box above search results. This is a rostrum that long-form journalism and essays have lacked since the dawn of the Internet age. But why is Google interested in specially indexing quality content? We suspect there may be a curation play at work.

People ask Google some deep questions, like “why am I here?” “should I have a third child?” and “why is my scab turning that color?” Apparently 10% of our time on Google is spent digging into broad topics like these. So Google is curating and featuring authoritative treatises on popular subjects to provide a starting point for intellectual expansion. If you Google “abortion” or “nature,” essays and long-form journalism by respected authors will pop up as the first results under a new In-Depth Articles header.

Generally the assumption in online publishing is that readers want everything in bite-sized chunks. The thinking is that consumers have the attention span of a goldfish and will get distracted by a notification or a sudden urge to Tweet if a blog post or article is too long. There are data to support this, but there is also evidence that readers appreciate long pieces and will stick with them to the end. And Google pushing hefty word counts might be just what long-form needs.


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