Follow-Up: You Won’t Read All of This

Last month, I wrote that a powerful incentive for writers to write less is that readers don’t want to read very much. Specifically, I said that less is better because:

  • Most people don’t read—they skim.
  • Most people don’t pay attention for very long.

  • Writers are competing for readers’ attentions.

One of the strategies websites use to overcome their readers’ short attention spans and increase page views is to deliver articles in list format. Cracked.com, Buzzfeed and Thought Catalog all excel at getting people perusing Facebook and Twitter to click on links like “The 10 Types of People You Meet in Prison”. As it turns out, even featuring articles with such titillating titles as “6 Bizarre Uses for Mouthwash” doesn’t guarantee readers will get all the way to #6. Hootsuite performed an experiment, in which it took a post called “5 Content Marketing Tips We Learned From Our Best-Performing Content” and surreptitiously added a sixth “lesson” that explicitly asked readers not to share the post on social media.

Guess what happened. (Or you could just read about it…)

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