Consider the following:
1. An average person can read around 200 words per minute on screen.
2. The average UK Guardian website reader spends around 7 mins and 30 seconds per visit (according to Google)
3. The Guardian has monthly page views of around 88 million in the UK and around 21 million unique visitors per month (according to Google)
4. Based on the above, the average visitor will spend around 450/4.2 = 107 seconds per page. In other words, the average reader will read up to 350 words before moving on to another page or off the site completely.
What might we infer from this?
1. Any article longer than 350 words will not be read in full. Not least because on any given page, the reader is also potentially being distracted from reading editorial copy by ads and other elements on the page. In which case, what density of client reference is required within 350 words to have any material impact on the reader?
Is 107 seconds really long enough to make any impact at all?
What about press releases?
Based on Google Ad Planner figures, the average amount of time spent on a page on Sourcewire.com (a well known press release distribution service) = 151 seconds.
Based on an average reading speed of 3.33 words per second, then your typical Sourcewire visitor (ie a journalist) is going to consume, at best, 500 words per page.
However, based on an admittedly small sample, the average Sourcewire press release contains 800 – 900 words.
In which case, you might argue that putting a release on Sourcewire of more than 500 words is a waste of time because the likelihood that a journalist will read more than 500 words per page is very slim (ignoring the SEO value that you might gain from using Sourcewire).
These are average figures (Avanash Kaushik would roast me alive). Some people may be able to read more quickly on screen. Then again, many people will read more slowly. And clearly some people may spend more time with content. However, that means that an even greater number spend less time. In fact, that probably is the case if the Newspaper Marketing Society’s figures are true (that 56pc of all UK newspaper web site visits last less than one minute).
Google’s figures may be wildly inaccurate too. That was certainly the claim from publishers when Double Click Ad Planner was first launched. However, you don’t hear so much complaint about them now.
Online PR planning needs to take account of engagement in determining what media sites to target and the appropriate content to provide. If a site’s visitors spend barely 30 seconds on reading a page, then crowing to the client that they’ve got 14 paragraphs of coverage at the end of a 3,000 word article is pretty meaningless – whether it is the BBC or the Wheel Tappers & Shunters Weekly.