Yay! Your Long-Form Content Is In Style—Now What?

To borrow a saying from David Letterman, asset managers don’t give digital marketer jobs to chimpanzees. And it's a good thing, too, because you need to be at your highest-functioning as online content consumption evolves and new utilities surface as a means of providing access to content your firm produces.

Content marketing by asset managers is largely in the form of thought leadership, i.e., long-form content about the markets and market opportunities. The rising popularity of mobile devices (primarily iPads but ostensibly other tablets, too) and browser tools that accommodate saving think pieces for later is driving engagement in longer content. This should be a net positive for mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers.

But we see a few issues that you might want to consider. Here’s a quick briefing—of course, we welcome your thoughts below.

Readers Prefer Non-computer Reading

Longer content is getting its lift from bookmarking tools (bookmarklets) that are added to browsers. My favorite Instapaper is believed to be the market share leader, followed by Read It Later and Readability. Once the bookmarklet is in place, an online reader can land on a Web page and decide to save that page to read later on a computer or synchronized mobile device, and even offline, by clicking on the bookmarklet.

This ability to time-shift online content that’s not able to be consumed when it’s discovered is leading to a significant change in reading habits—and preferences for reading device. iPad owners, especially, are saving their online reading, to do the majority of it later on their iPads. That’s the conclusion of Read It Later, based on100 million articles saved by its users across all major Web and mobile platforms.


"While on a computer, we are more susceptible to discovering additional content throughout the day," notes Read It Later. But their images above show that as a day wears on, iPad readers abandon the computer in favor of reading on their iPads. You’ll want to read the complete analysis.

And, of course, we recommend that your Web analytics segment your site traffic by device and that you consistently review the differences (including time of day) between those who access your site via computer versus mobile.

The Value (And Risk To You) Of Stripped Content

kasina has reported that more than half of financial advisors use mobile devices to access "work content." And we know that asset managers are equipping their wholesalers with iPads to do their jobs. To do your job and to truly understand how your saved-for-later content is being consumed, you need access to iPads, too.

What’s more, if IT has limited your browser tool to Internet Explorer, you need to break free to be able to use the bookmarklets that are more commonly available for Firefox and Chrome. IE users won't be able to use Instapaper at all.

Reading content using these bookmarklets is a better experience for the reader not just because of the device used. It’s also because in saving the content, articles are stripped from their original design and placed into formatted text to produce what this Readability video calls a “clean, comfortable reading view.”

Readability - Enjoy Reading, Support Writing from Arc90 on Vimeo.

Who wouldn’t prefer less “clutter” (a catch-all term for the site design, navigation, widgets, etc. that digital marketers labor over) when reading?

Once you are using Firefox or Chrome and saving content to read later on the iPad, you’ll see for yourself why we expect advisors and investors to increasingly gravitate to these utilities as a way of reading your long-form work. And then you will also immediately see some issues.

No Adobe Acrobat Support

Instapaper doesn’t support Adobe Acrobat files, asset managers’ preferred means of distributing content. While bookmarking appears to save the content contained in a .pdf, it actually can’t be accessed through the Instapaper interface. And, it’s not possible to save a .pdf to read later while on the iPad.

A user who may take the trouble to save your content for later hits a dead-end, as shown in this screenshot of a .pdf-packaged Loomis Sayles commentary on Egypt that never loads.


Not All Required Content Converts

HTML content that’s saved for later converts just fine to the Instapaper interface—but you are going to need to confirm that all required content (disclosures, prospectus offerings and hyperlinks, distributor information, etc.) is included in the text that's converted. We’re not going to show any screenshots here, but some asset manager content is running pretty naked.

Below is a screenshot of an unadorned (no design, navigation, etc.) excerpt from an AdvisorTweets blog post as seen in Instapaper. Note the link to the original and that the hyperlinks have been retained. But much information was not converted: the second line of the headline, the RSS subscription info, the comments.


Is it sufficient that the bookmarklets always offer a link to the original presentation of the content or is this a Compliance concern? This merits immediate review with your Compliance, IT and content management system (CMS) team. It may require some page-making adjustments. For Instapaper, specifically, see the Instapaper Information for Publishers page.

Some Context May Be Desirable

As you look at your content standing alone as it does, you’ll see that you’ll want to add more to each content piece to give it some context and to extend the "relationship" with the reader who bookmarked your single piece of content. You may want to add a standard line about signing up for an email newsletter or subscribing to an RSS feed. If you have an accompanying audio file, make sure you include a mention within the content.

The Effect On Your Site Traffic

Finally, as you think through the implications of offsite reading of your content, the logical conclusion is that this trend will affect your Website’s total page views, time on site and other engagement metrics. This is to be expected and we encourage you to begin now to set management expectations with the eye on your communications goals, not traffic charts.