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How to win over impatient readers

Published on Friday, 9th February 2018, contributed by Stratton Craig

In 2000, the average attention span was recorded at 12 seconds. Over a decade later, Microsoft concluded that the average attention span now sits at around eight seconds – less than that of a goldfish.

Is technology to blame for our dwindling concentration skills? Probably. But we’re not just bored. We’re impatient.

Are reading skills dead in the water?

2017’s government stats on internet activity show that a huge proportion of us read news online – around 70-75% of people aged 16-54 prefer this method to print. Despite this, scientists claim that reading on paper is a lot more enjoyable and beneficial to our comprehension and retention of information – worth noting for businesses keen to create marketing collateral in print.

Of course we all love a good story. Yet online, it’s no secret that many of us just read the headlines – eight out of ten of us in fact don’t get past the first sentence. Even if we do, half of us won’t finish reading the content.

Well done if you’ve made it this far. Stick with me for a bit longer…

Why don’t we scroll down?

Fast and easy access to everything online is something we all take for granted. And if we can’t have it all right here, right now, why should we bother?

Not only the way we consume, but the sheer volume of what is available to us online, also plays a role. Countless articles, guides and blogs to sift through on the web has spawned generations of impatient readers, guilty of switching from one piece of content to the next…

No wonder. With our increasingly busy lives, who’s got the time to read a whole thing?

For content creators, this attitude is a significant challenge to overcome.

Images and captions – detrimental to reading habits or crucial short-cuts?

Sometimes the image alone is what draws us in, rather than the headline. Video content is also ever present. If we need visual stimulation to help us read, then each image’s relevance and contextualisation is crucial.

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding how images can fuel fake news. With a misleading caption, or indeed no caption, the mind can extrapolate a whole range of non-truths from what the eyes physically see.

‘Show don’t tell’ is writing gospel, and images do just that. But sometimes, a brand’s great efforts to portray a message can be totally warped; Dove’s latest advert depicting a black woman removing a t-shirt to reveal a white woman underneath has received criticism and backlash all over the world for its racist imagery. With or without a caption, this advert misses the mark.

Despite their importance, it sometimes seems as if the art of the caption is lost, whether people bother to read them or not.

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