There’s always one thing that most writers and those with important content on their site will say; “no reader actually finishes reading an article.” I disagree… when the content grabs the reader, is concise, and speaks TO the reader and not AT him or her. I also agree because it’s true that most people will not read more than 60% of an article.
I don’t remember the source that claimed the figure above, but, as there are always readers who comment on my articles in one community board or another, and either accuse me of not saying something that is actually halfway through the article, or add their own thoughts to expand the article information, ignoring the fact that the information indeed HAD been included, I must agree something isn’t being read by someone.
I was happy to find the article, “You Won’t Finish This Article,” by Farhad Manjoo, on Slate because it echoed my observations, as I’m sure, as a content owner, you’ve also noticed and odd traffic pattern with your site.
I’m going to keep this brief, because you’re not going to stick around for long. I’ve already lost a bunch of you. For every 161 people who landed on this page, about 61 of you—38 percent—are already gone. You “bounced” in Web traffic jargon, meaning you spent no time “engaging” with this page at all.
So now there are 100 of you left. Nice round number. But not for long! We’re at the point in the page where you have to scroll to see more. Of the 100 of you who didn’t bounce, five are never going to scroll. Bye!
OK, fine, good riddance. So we’re 95 now. A friendly, intimate crowd, just the people who want to be here. Thanks for reading, folks!
Better yet, in this article they had some informative charts.
Why Aren’t People Reading It All?
It’s not that people are illiterate, but think of the 140 character world we’ve entered. How many people learn news through sound bytes from their favorite news sources? We are an instant world with fast needs.
As a public relations professor of mine would tell the class; keep the most important fact within the first 5-8 words and then list the most important things next and work your way down on the scale of importance. If people get tired of reading, at least they have the main idea.
Some marketing gurus argue that content is overrated and over used. They see a world with no reading; where viewers are spoon fed hot media. That, naturally, is what YouTube is about… bit do you finish every video you start watching?
James Carson writes in his article, “TL;DR: people don’t really read on the web and what you should do about it,”
Content marketing teams are on the hunt for great writers, but before we go on a hiring spree, we need to ask if anyone actually reads!
Publishing sites such as The Oatmeal and Buzzfeed have grown rapidly without a whole lot of text, while image curation platforms such as Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram have exploded in the last few years.
Let’s remember: there’s more to content marketing than good writers!
Mr. Carson is of the belief, as are many in web development, that images make the content. Naturally, he’s right. Images are quick and advertising with simple images and not a lot of text have always been very effective.
Simple and quick is the strength of image content… if you have the smarts to do something that strikes a cord with readers. But what about messages and information that has to be presented as written content? How do you engage readers right up to the very end of your message?
Writing Stuff People Will Read
A friend of mine writes for web sites and her hard, fast rule for front pages is no more than 300 words. She claims any more and people will stop reading. 300 seems to be the magic number in her opinion, but it may be very true. People’s attention span may not permit more than 300 words at a time.
I have my own method that seems to serve well for long articles and content. As many of my clients desire and the material I write demands over 800 words, and usually more than 1,500 words (one client insists on a minimum of 2,500 words), I had to find ways to engage people… usually through a dirty trick.
- I start with a headline and/or first paragraph that punches people in the face. It sometimes is insulting and demeaning but it always gets the attention of site surfers.
- The first paragraph has to pull in the reader. Either I state something that entices them, aggravates them or challenges their beliefs and social beliefs.
- The following content whips the reader into a frenzy. It angers them, it enthralls them, and usually they want to see how far I’ll push it.
- The conclusion offers solutions and a peaceful ending that hopefully leaves the reader thinking about possibilities they had not considered and teaches them something useful to take away from their reading.
- Lastly, I engage the people who comment, whether it’s on the site, in a online business group to which this article will get re-posted, Facebook, Twitter, and email. They offer another dimension to the article that others want to read.
I don’t recommend this approach for everyone, because you have to know when to pull the punch of the headline or sentences within the article. It’s tricky and it’s easy to get away from yourself. The idea, however, is to guide the reader to your points with just a little push from the writer.
My writing tips are rooted in the words of some long gone writers, who, I will not name for fear of realizing I’m not at their level. Let’s move on to some others.
I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.
– Stephen King
It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.
– Ernest Hemingway
Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.
– Mark Twain
If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.
– Somerset Maugham
To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.
– Herman Melville
It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.
– C. J. Cherryh
Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.
– Ray Bradbury
Naturally, there are more, but they all speak of not a supposed talent for writing, but an ability to tell a story. Blogs and articles must evolve with the web and that’s not just the technology, but the study of the people reading them. They are the target of clear communication… clear to them, as you must find new ways to reach out with your information. I wonder if anyone is actually reading this far into the article.
I’m betting the author quotes lost half of you. Thanks for reading what you did. Hope it made something, just something, a little better for you. Were you around to read that?
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