Although there’s not a real consensus on the definition of the longform content, I can say an article with more than 3-4 thousand words is considered as a longform content by most of the content strategists.
It’s not easy to find a topic more controversial than usefulness and future of the longform content in the field of content strategy. But independent of these discussions, something is for sure: There’s nothing new under the sun. Longform content isn’t something new and has been existing long times before content marketers and content strategists.
You could trace the first longform contents back to the old papyrus letters written by ancient emperors and after the invention of the printing press, it got much easier to produce longform content in large scale for the public audience.
In the web age, even before the popularization of the longform concept, many bloggers like Stive Pavlina had real long articles (e.g. Introduction to the meaning of life). But after the popularization of the longform, you can see an uprising trend in the publication of longform content (Just take a look at this one!).
For years, authors chose between the shortform and longform based on the message they had and the level of elaboration the needed for communicating the concept. But SEO approach to the articles changed the way we look at the content length.
serpIQ reports are just one of the numerous reports published in recent years showing that the long articles have a better chance to be shown up as the top search results:
Longer stay time of the users on websites was the second reason for publishing longform articles as it can directly improve the traffic rank. Longform content got vast popularity for a couple of years, having these and many other technical reasons as support.
Therefore, for a long period, publishing longform content was the recommendation of SEO technicians independent of the real length of the message you had for your audience.
Spending a few minutes searching for the articles promoting or criticizing the longform, you will see the large portion of these articles is dedicated to the technical reasons and statistical reports. For example, as it is shown in the following diagram, the even variation of user preference to the content size is studied to find the optimum post length (measured as the necessary time for reading it).
Although still it’s possible to perform many other similar studies, we should not forget what we see in these statistical reports is more correlation than causation. It means there can be many different reasons for the positive correlation between length of the content and its rank for search engines or attractiveness for the audience that are overseen in this type of reports.
It seems we should take a deeper analysis to decide whether the longform content is suitable for our audience or not.
I have continued this topic in my other post titled why you should create long form content, But before, you may like to take a look at some of the excellent samples of the longform content I’ve seen on the web: