Hey, guess what? People read on their smartphones.
That’s the thrust of a piece in Wired that talks about how the smartphone has been a godsend for long-form written journalism. Where people used to read their newspapers on the subway, now they read their smartphones—and despite the predictions of those who said such devices would destroy our attention span, the evidence is pretty good that smartphone users are able to concentrate enough to read articles thousands of words long in one go.
The Atlantic recently reported that a gorgeously illustrated 6,200-word story on BuzzFeed—which likewise gets about half its readers through mobile devices—not only received more than a million views, it held the attention of smartphone users for an average of more than 25 minutes. (WIRED’s in-depth web offerings have also attracted audiences. A profile of a brilliant Mexican schoolgirl garnered 1.2 million views, 25 percent of them from phones, and readers spent an average of 18 minutes on it.)
It probably won’t surprise those folks who remember how, before and even in the early days of the Kindle, the iPhone was the e-book device of choice. If people will read e-books on smartphones, why wouldn’t they read longer news articles? (And for that matter, vice versa.)
This has led to various innovative journalism startups aimed at bringing bigger stories to smaller devices, leveraging social media in helping readers discover new things to read. (Though some of those have been around a while, too.)
So, yes, even in this era of the Kindle and the tablet, the small screen of the smartphone is still not too small for reading. And that’s probably not going to change.