Jan 20, 2003
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Are instant messaging and blogging turning us all into short-writers/short-readers? How does/should this affect your editorial?
When high tech marketing consultant Kristin Zhivago and I got together for lunch last Friday, the first topic to come up was how IM is affecting the communication skills/habit/tactics of most people we know under 35 in the workplace. People are getting used to writing much shorter - you don't type out a formal memo or even full sentences when your IM buddy is impatiently waiting for a live response on the other end.
In one century we've gone from flowery-polite long winded Edwardian business letters to telegraphic IMs. From long articles to Blogs. Aside from the cultural barbarians-at-the-gate/nobody-thinks-deeply-anymore reaction you can have about this; how does it affect your editorial as a publisher? Should you ask writers to boil stuff down to fewer words please because the only thing length does is annoy people? Should you add quick-read summaries to the tops of every story for impatient readers?
Every month or so sombody writes in asking us to do this with our stories which generally run 3-6 pages. "I don't want to have to read the whole Case Study, just sum it up for me." Problem is, if we only serve a paragraph or two summary then we can't stick more than say one ad in the issue or it looks overly commercial.
You need a body of content to carry your ads; less body, fewer ads. So we write the Case Studies as tightly and entertainingly as we can to get you sucked into reading, and cross our fingers you'll find it worth it to continue and incidentally view more ads.
Then, this Sunday for the first time in a while, I grabbed the NY Times book review to find out about the a new novel by a favorite author. When I opened it to the page, my heart plummeted. Oh god, a whole page of tiny type to read. No star-ranking to glance at, no summary, no sub-heads for sections. I would have to plow through the whole thing. I was annoyed. I didn't want to read the no-doubt thoughtfully-written review for 10 minutes. I just wanted to know, should I buy that book? I wanted the IM, the Blogged, version.
Now I have to rethink our long Case Studies, how the heck can we as publishers provide for the new "short" reader and still have a business?