The trend of the quick read — do readers crave more content?
True or false? Humans have a lesser attention span than a goldfish.
The media has popularised this as truth. But this is snakeskin oil, traded as a scare-tactic in the face of rising social media and internet use. Much like the advent of printed books or radio, any innovation that newly captures our attention in an all-engrossing way is considered a distraction.
There is no hard, scientific proof of the goldfish theory. Our attention spans are intact, at least physiologically. Experts reassure that our brains simply need training, or re-training, in the art of concentration. We haven’t evolved to lose focus easily. We’re just out of practice.
If this is the case, and keen attention spans are well within our reach, why does the media — both traditional and social — push the trend of the quick read?
The Quick Read
A recent addition to online articles is a footnote on expected reading duration. ’10 minute read’, ‘5 minute read’, ‘1 minute read’, mostly erring on the quicker side. An article whose content is itself a footnote in our busy lives, glanced at briefly on commutes, while watching television, or while whipping up dinner.
Consider, too, the popularity of listicles, pedalled by outlets such as BuzzFeed. Instead of any meat for the reader to chew on, the content is skin and bones. The format: large subheadings plus two to three lines of body text equals an article.
For an even quicker read, there’s the Tweet. Capping — or restricting — content to under 280 characters. Twitter capitalises on the myth of the short attention span..
Many blog writers embrace short form articles as their brand style. Author and marketer Seth Godin shares his ideas through simple, short articles.
Quick reads are certainly the flavour of recent years, but what do readers really want? Superficial, bite-sized snapshots or discursive long-form pieces?