I recently decided to add a plugin here at this blog that provides an estimate of the read time required for each article I write.
These days, we often prioritize speed when it comes to receiving information. So it might be reasonable to conclude that providing a guess as to the read time an article might require would attract readers. I’m now using a plugin at this blog called Read Meter. It provides the estimated read time at the top of an article right before the first paragraph.
It also displays a progress bar along the bottom of the web site as you scroll. That shows you graphically how close you are to the end as you scroll. When you reach the bottom of an article, the status bar fills to the far right edge.
The majority of my posts fall around the three-minute mark. The plugin bases that on a read time of about 275 words per minute. That might turn out to be a bit low compared with the average for the typical adult, which some sites claim is closer to 300.
I don’t ever write for a read time. I don’t even write to reach a certain targeted word count. The only thing I intentionally do as I write it to ensure I have at least 300 words. Yoast SEO, another plugin of mine, claims that’s a sweet spot. A post much shorter than that may not contain enough information to be worth a mention in search results, it reasons.
A 300-word post, compared with a 275-word-per-minute read rate, would show as about a two-minute read.
I’m guessing, though I haven’t tried to experiment to find the exact total, that a post that’s about 825 words in length would hit the three-minute mark.
Does adding a read time estimate really help?
I notice a growing number of sites adding that read time stat somewhere near the top of a page. Some news sites add them to news articles.
I honestly don’t pay much attention to that stat myself. I think I scan a little faster than the “average” human, anyway. But on top of that, I never base my decision on whether to begin reading an article on how long it’ll take me to read it.
If the topic interests me, I’ll jump in until the writing quality or amount of useful information changes my mind.
Tempesta Media‘s Michael Marchese wrote about why adding a read time is important. Marchese cited research from Zippia that claimed about 43% of readers skim content and the median time they spend reading content is 37 seconds.
Alarming as it sounds, that last figure, Marchese argues, is the reason a read time becomes critical.
“If these statistics are accurate, you need to use every tool in your toolbox to motivate your readers to engage with your content longer,” Marchese said.
It almost seems counter-intuitive to me. I have a tool at my real job that estimates the average time people spend reading news articles we publish. Many of them don’t have the word count of a long post here. Others have a longer word count. Based on what I see, the average time spent reading of 37 seconds that Zippia cites doesn’t strike me as unreasonable.
Disturbing, yes. But not unreasonable. Still, let’s assume it’s true that people spend around half-a-minute reading a post. Doesn’t it seem a bit “daunting” to warn them that a new post is three or four minutes long? After all, that adds up to between six to eight times that long!
Well, for one thing, the people who spend that short a time “scanning” a post don’t do so with a stopwatch. They probably think they spend at least a couple of minutes, even if they intentionally just scan. So seeing that a post’s estimated time to read is just three minutes might not seem like a long time at all.
Many, Marchese says, are “time-pressed.” If they see what looks like a short time investment, they may invest more willingly. That could help your blog.
We’ll see if it helps. I doubt it would hurt.