Stats: The Analytics of Reading to the Bottom of the Page

In “How people read online: Why you won’t finish this article” on Slate Magazine, author Farhad Manjoo explores the statistics on whether or not you will read to the bottom of his article.

I’m going to keep this brief, because you’re not going to stick around for long. I’ve already lost a bunch of you. For every 161 people who landed on this page, about 61 of you—38 percent—are already gone. You “bounced” in Web traffic jargon, meaning you spent no time “engaging” with this page at all.

So now there are 100 of you left. Nice round number. But not for long! We’re at the point in the page where you have to scroll to see more. Of the 100 of you who didn’t bounce, five are never going to scroll. Bye!

OK, fine, good riddance. So we’re 95 now. A friendly, intimate crowd, just the people who want to be here. Thanks for reading, folks! I was beginning to worry about your attention span, even your intellig … wait a second, where are you guys going? You’re tweeting a link to this article already? You haven’t even read it yet!

He talked to many expert web analytics researchers and analysts about the statistics associated with reading an article on the web. The numbers are fascinating, and may change how you write your next post.

What is most fascinating is that most of the best comments and stats this article offers is found more than halfway through the article. The author pushes that point throughout with great humor.

The stats and data are fascinating. Here are examples.

  • A typical web article is about 2,000 pixels long. An estimate of 5% of readers never scroll past the top.
  • On Slate.com, 25% of readers make it past the 1,600th pixel of the page length, representative of similar sites.
  • Most visitors read about 50% of an article.
  • Articles with images and videos are more likely to read to the end.
  • Of those who scroll, most people get to about 60% of an article.
  • If the header art, ads, and other visuals at the top of the page force the reader to scroll, the likelihood that they will scroll deeper into the article increases.
  • Most people will share links to articles they have never or barely read, just to share things on social media.
  • 86.2% of engagement on Slate.com is below the fold, and an estimate of 65.7% for major web publishers.

We make jokes about “content is king,” but this article supports that belief in a new way. To paraphrase a commenter on the article “content is more important than length.”

In my classes and workshops, I teach that research has proven repeatedly that there is no magic formula or recipe for the “best” post length. We maybe living in a society of short attention spans, but the research continues to show that if an article is worth reading, readers will read it to the end.

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