Do people read long copy?
On an almost daily basis someone suggests to me people don’t.
The argument goes:
In this modern world of failing attention spans no one gives anything any longer than a few seconds.
What do you think?
I think this whole question is piffle.
I’ll tell you why in a minute…
But to be fair, I should first lay down a disclaimer.
I’m biased because I know long copy can make millions, billions even.
I see examples of it doing so every day.
I’ve personally written 10,000-word letters myself that have grossed millions.
Just this afternoon, in fact, I reviewed a letter for a good friend of mine that is around 6,000 words – far longer than most would consider reasonable.
It will be promoted online and sell thousands of copies of the product it’s selling. I have no doubt.
And yet people still tell me…
No one reads long copy.
Of course, the kind of direct-response long copy sales letters I write are an extreme example of long copy.
So extreme that despite it being a form of copy that is responsible for generating billions in revenue around the world…
People will still say it’s not a fair example. It’s an exception. In the ‘real world’ people don’t read long copy.
Let’s entertain the thought that the long copy sales letters used by a multitude of different companies for a vast range of different products actually exist in a different realm to the one in which I am writing this message to you.
Let’s discount their success from the equation and ask the question again…
Do people in this ‘real world’ read long copy?
Well, are you still reading this article for example?
Would you read an Instagram post if it had over five lines of text?
Could you be arsed to read a blog post longer than 500 words?
The answer is…
Well, we’ll get to that in a minute.
First, humour me and let me ask you a different question…
Have you watched Making A Murderer on Netflix?
Have you read the Lord of the Rings books or seen the films?
Have you (accidentally) got hooked on a reality TV show?
Chances are you have, right? Or at least you’ve read or watched something similar.
In some way you will engage with an on-going narrative in your life. Mostly likely you’ll engage with lots of them.
It’s what we do as humans. We love to be told stories.
We read stories. We listen to stories. We make up stories.
We’re obsessed with narrative.
It’s the very reason we’re still here, essentially running the planet, asking silly questions like do people read long copy?
The entire human race exists on long copy.
We thrive on ideas and stories that are being embellished and expanded upon constantly.
Hold on. Hold on.
I know what you’re thinking – this is all getting a bit philosophical.
“We’re talking about sales copy, Glenn. Do people read long sales copy?”
To me there is no difference.
If people are willing to read a long book…
They’re willing to read long copy.
If it is good.
And there we have the crux of it.
It’s why the question of whether people read long copy or not is a load of piffle.
People will read any length of copy…if it is good.
If it is not good, it doesn’t matter if it’s one page or one hundred – they aren’t going to give it a second look either way.
You see, when you dismiss a piece of long copy because you think it’s too long, what you’re actually saying is that it hasn’t engaged you.
In other words: it is not good, in your opinion.
And that’s fine.
I didn’t stop reading Proust because it was too long. I’ve read much longer books and thoroughly enjoyed them. I stopped reading Proust because, to me, it wasn’t good. It didn’t engage me.
It’s the same with copy.
I’ve read copy that runs to thousands of words without noticing the length at all because it was engaging…
And I’ve dismissed short pieces of copy that would have taken me a moment to read but didn’t because…guess what…they didn’t engage me.
So here’s the rub:
People do read long copy…
They just don’t read bad copy.
When you realise that, something wonderful happens…
But to find out what it is: you’ll have to tune into part two.
There’s another part to this piece I’m afraid. Of course there is – we’re talking about long copy here. What did you expect?
I’ll be back with part two next week, but in the meantime I’d love to hear your thoughts on the age old long copy versus short copy debate.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and I’ll try to feature some of the responses in the next part too.
P.S. If you haven’t bought my book yet, could you please do me a massive favour?
There you go – some short copy!