Fast content vs. slow content – which is best?

Estimated reading time
4 minutes
5th February 2020
Author: Natasha Keary
Posted in: Content production

Here’s a scenario to get you thinking about whether you’re currently creating fast content or slow content. Imagine that you’ve just published a thought leadership piece. You look at its analytics and see that you’ve received 110 reads and 7 leads. Great news, you think. Now, informed by analytics, you have a decision to make. Do you:

 a) Plan to create 5 pieces of content like this one every week. If it worked this time, it’s likely to work again, right?

Or;

b) Begin to research and plan your next piece of content, hoping to publish it next month. It will take time to brainstorm, research and write an in-depth piece for sure. 

Both of these approaches are valid ways to build up a content strategy. The choice hinges on whether you value fast or slow content marketing more. Fast content allows you to have a constant stream of writing across your channels, but slow content is likely to be of a higher value to your readers. It’s a tricky decision to make. 

Luckily, we have insights from experts in creating content from HSBC, B2B Marketing, and Mintel to give us their thoughts. But first, let’s start with the psychology…

Thinking, fast and slow book cover

Thinking fast vs. thinking slow 

Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman is becoming an important figure to those interested in cognitive marketing. As the co-founder of nudge theory, Kahneman’s insights into user behavior and the brain are hugely influential on how marketers think about their audience. One of his most important theories is ‘thinking fast and slow’ – an underpinning theory for fast and slow content. 

The theory states that there are two main ways the brain works:

“System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.

System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.”

Put simply, system 1 is the fast way of thinking and system 2 the slow. If you want to see these two systems in action you can try a simple maths problem, quoted in Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow:

A bat and ball cost £1.10. The bat costs one pound more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

Your first answer might be 10 pence, which is evidence of your fast thinking system in action. Your slower method of thinking – system 2 – might then reconsider the math, and calculate that the ball is in fact 5 pence. This demonstrates how your fast thinking system is behind snap, easy judgments and your slower system behind the more difficult, engaging calculations. 

For content creators

Laptop with pen and notepad to symbolise fast content and slow content creation

So what does this mean for content creators? Baring these two systems in mind might help to plan your route through the oversaturated field of content out there – there are 70 million blog posts published on WordPress alone every month, and this accounts for just 27 percent of all posts. 

Ideally, you want to aim to stimulate your reader’s slower system of thinking, as this one requires more concentration and more engagement. Faster thinking might drive audiences to choose clickbait articles, but this might result in high bounce rates and low read times. The answer might be to appeal to both systems since both work together.

But let’s hear what some of the industry’s leading content creators have to say about it: 

What the experts say 

Delayed Gratification is a magazine centered around the idea of slow content. Claiming to be ‘the last to breaking news’ since 2011, the website champions the idea that the content world deserves some slow, well-thought-out writing. “When you take a slower approach you may not get the same numbers but you get more engagement,” Rob Orchard, co-founder of Delayed Gratification says. “We wanted to do the opposite of break-neck speed news stories. To show readers what happens after the spotlight has moved on when the dust settles,” he explained.

Across the industry, however, response to fast and slow content is mixed:

  • “Measuring content whilst it’s in-flight is still really important. We sent out an infographic and it was the perfect timing. After seeing the initial results, which were extremely positive. We decided to utilize social media to keep up the momentum of the post.” – Victoria Pawsey, El Advisory
  • “The hardest working content we produce cannot be put online. Online content needs to pass the Granny test…but what is clear to Granny doesn’t necessarily work for our bankers…” – Aimee Peters, HSBC
  • “It’s about trying to do higher-quality – whether fast or slow. It’s not a flash in the pan. It’s a considered campaign.” – Joel Harrison, B2B Marketing
  • “Wait, what? is an important strategic question for content marketing.” – Ann Handley, Wall-Street Journal bestselling author

Time to go slow?

While it may seem that going slow is the new tactic for marketers, there’s plenty of open options to do both. This might mean that fast content when building momentum on social media might be the best tactic, while slow content for thought leadership might ensure a greater immersion for readers. The important thing is to remember that sometimes, slow and steady does indeed win the race. 

Tortoise winning a race against a hare