Who Are The Most-Read Authors On The Web?

Which authors online keep readers coming back for more? Read It Later delved into its data to find which articles its 4 million users saved to “Read Later” most often, which authors have the highest return rate and how long-form content performs. (<– Hint: One of the most popular is that guy.)

The project was led by Mark Armstrong of Longreads, who recently partnered with Read It Later as editorial advisor. The full report is on Read It Later’s blog, written by Armstrong and Coco Krumme. Some highlights from the 47 million pieces of content saved to read later between May and October 2011:

It makes sense that readers save Lifehacker content, write Krumme and Armstrong: “it’s a natural for how-to and instructional content that readers might find and want to come back to.”

Here are the authors with the highest return rate–the highest number of users returning to the story in some way. “Top saves were focused on how-to and tech content (a likely side effect of our largest user group being early tech adopters-because, hey, even at 4 million users, we’re still ‘early’),” write the authors, “but the authors with the strongest reader loyalty included writing about sports, general news and gaming.”

Bloggers who channel their energy into writing fewer but longer posts can see a payoff as well. Read It Later compared TechCrunch blogger Alexia Tsotsis, ESPN’s Grantland writers Chuck Klosterman and Tom Bissell, Rolling Stone and New York Magazine writer Vanessa Grigoriadis, and New York Times (NYSE: NYT) reporters Jeffrey Gettleman and Susanne Craig. Tsotsis writes many more articles than the rest of the group, but her average story is 440 words long, compared to much longer pieces from the other five. Here are their return rates:

The report’s authors conclude that we’re seeing “an important new way to judge the quality of content, from the standpoint of loyalty to an author and longevity (or long-term usefulness) of their content.”

For more, including findings focusing on the New York Times, here’s the full report.