Public library blogs: Average post length

Conventional wisdom used to say that good blog posts were brief blog posts. That was particularly true for “weblogs”–that is, those blogs that are primarily logs of websites visited, links with little or no commentary. (“Linkblogs” would be a better term these days.) (Modified 3/14/08 to clarify that the term “weblog” doesn’t, in fact, carry the narrower suggested definition, even if some early webloggers think it should.)

Conventional wisdom has gone by the wayside, to a great extent. A good blog has posts that are long enough to say what needs to be said, preferably while being short enough so that readers stay interested. How long is long enough? That depends.

In Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples, I said that typical paragraphs run 75 to 150 words, frequently fewer than 75. I think that’s true for most print paragraphs. Online paragraphs tend to be shorter, for whatever reasons. (The original first paragraph in this post is 44 words long.) The “average average” post length for all blogs was 187.3 words, roughly two typical print paragraphs. The “median average” was 153.8 words–roughly one long print paragraph.

What do I mean by “average average” and “median average”? The average (mean) and median are taken on the set of average post lengths, which only makes sense. The average length of all posts, across the whole set of blogs, is 173.7 words per post–but that’s about as useless a figure as I can think of.

Here are the quintiles:

  • Q1: Longest posts (“essays”). From 251.9 words to 864.7 words per post.
    Average: 378.1 words per post.
    Median: 321.1 words per post.
    Four blogs really do qualify as sets of essays, with the average post being the length of a typical newspaper column (around 800 words).
  • Q2: Longer posts. From 180.1 to 251.1 words per post.
    Average: 217.7 words per post.
    Median: 218.6 words per post.
  • Q3: Average-length posts. From 137.1 to 179.0 words per post (52 blogs).
    Average: 155.3 words per post.
    Median: 153.8 words per post.
  • Q2: Shorter posts. From 95.0 to 137.0 words per post.
    Average: 115.5 words per post.
    Median: 115.6 words per post.
  • Q1: Shortest (terse) posts. From 11.4 to 94.2 words per post.
    Average: 71.0 words per post.
    Median: 74.7 words per post.

Since this isn’t a cumulative metric, the Pareto limit isn’t meaningful.

Next up: The most difficult metric given the supposed role of blogs for improving community involvement.

2 Responses to “Public library blogs: Average post length”

  1. Jon Gorman Says:

    I didn’t think weblogs had that narrow of a meaning (in reference to your comment that they are logs of what websites someone has visited). I was under the impression that a weblog (web log) was…well, just a log or a diary on the web. At some point someone came up with the “blog”, which apparently was catchier.

    Of course, my remembering of the issue is hazy ;).

  2. walt Says:

    Jon,

    You’re absolutely right. That’s why I put “weblogs” in scare quotes, and probably shouldn’t have said it that way at all. But it is true, apparently, that the “first weblogger” came out recently saying that weblogs should be primarily logs of interesting websites, with little commentary because, after all, the sites already say what needs to be said.

    Your memory is just fine. My revisionist history is at fault.


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