There is no denying that within the last decade there has been a massive shift in how we consume media content. As a result, the characteristics of that media are changing drastically as well.
Admit it, the first thing you did when you opened this page was scroll down to see how long it was. You’ve probably checked your Email and Facebook page a couple times since then, too. Personally, I can barely get through a chapter in a book these days without fidgeting or reaching for my phone.
Our ability to focus has been great compromised
With the advent of social media, our ability to focus has been greatly compromised. In fact, over the last decade our average attention span has dropped from 12 minutes, to around 5. Evidence shows that increased attention to social media is actually rewiring our brains and how we intake information. Audiences now expect short, quick nuggets of information, and even traditional news sources are being forced to conform.
Even the Wall Street Journal has given into this collective ADHD: a review of stories on page one of the Journal shows that articles of 1,500 words or more are down 70% since 2006. Over that same time span, the number of shorter stories has doubled. Feature films are changing too; psychologists from Cornell University discovered that the average shot length in Hollywood movies has also dropped, from around 10 seconds per in the 1950’s, to under 4 seconds per shot as of 2011. The two fastest growing social media platforms today, Twitter and Vine, place a premium, on short, easily-digestable content. So this shift towards nuggetization has a direct correlation in how editors are presenting information.
So what does the this mean for you (and your content marketing strategy)?
There is good news and bad news – as media outlets from ESPN, to the Journal, to your local newspaper have learned, there is no fighting this trend towards nugget content. The good news is that you no longer have to spend the time developing long-form pieces. On the other hand, you now have to find new ways to engage your audience, present them with novel value, and get your message across, all in this shortened format. Do this experiment: the next time you find yourself in a 4-5 page news article, and the first page is a double column of dense writing, consider how willing (or unwilling) you are to read the whole thing. As you can see, the proverbial elevator pitch has become more important than ever.
It’s time to re-rewire your thinking
Start using these short-form principles that have become standard with social media when you are crafting your email messages. This doesn’t mean that you have to restrict yourself to 140 characters; if you do have a longer topic, consider ways to break up the content into quick, digestible nuggets of information. Use pictures or bullet points to break up large chunks of text and make your message easier to consume. And lastly, understand that your recipients absolutely do read a book by it’s cover. Well, at least their email inbox. Since you are competing with multiple other messages and technologies for their attention, your success depends on how captivating your subject line is. Grab their attention with a headline that is interesting and impactful. You can also try different styles of headlines, then test and track their success o find out which works best. These easy strategies can help you turn your static email messages into valued content that your recipients are eager to engage with.