One of the biggest and most important trends in digital publishing today is the push towards “snackable” or “digestible” content. These compelling little tidbits may not strike you as brilliant journalism, but they could just save your publication. Here are some of the reasons you need to make your content easy to grab on the go.
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Short Attention Spans
Gone are the days when people were willing to spend hours focusing on a massive chunk of content. It’s been estimated that the average human’s attention span is now a whopping 8 seconds. (For reference, the average goldfish’s attention span is 9 seconds, presumably because goldfish don’t use social media.) We not only have no inclination to linger, we also have no time in our frenetic modern lives.
Hungry people in a hurry go for quick snacks, not a sit-down dinner. In the world of digital media, that means they go for snappy headlines, simple words broken out into lists or laid out as infographics, and videos that force-feed them what they need to know. If you’re not making use of these techniques, your readers may decide that they don’t have time for you.
A World of Competing Content
Once upon a time, information was a precious commodity. People relied on a few elite gatekeepers — the publishers of their newspapers, books, and magazines — to provide them with what they wanted and needed to know. Then along came radio, then newsreels, then television, then the Internet, and now there’s a plethora of places to go for information and entertainment.
Today’s world of Internet-driven social media has positively buried the average individual in articles, audio/video clips, and instant updates. People have an infinite number of choices, so they naturally choose the most digestible helpings of data out there. If you want to be among the chosen, you have to compete with that mass of “fast food” content.
New Styles for New Media
Most social media channels emphasize making as big and immediate a splash as possible. Some of them support minimal verbiage, such as Pinterest (which is all about images), YouTube (video) and Twitter (with its emphasis on 140-character teasers, embedded images and offsite linking).
This shift toward bold, concise measures has created an expectation of the same for publications. People want to see their written content accompanied by video clips, sidebar lists, and helpful charts because that’s what they’ve gotten used to. (In fact, just by attaching an image to your article, you boost its potential views by 94 percent.) Your publication’s website, blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, and other channels must also embrace the wide range of modern multimedia if you want to appear relevant and state-of-the-art.
All This and Quality Too
Does the production of digestible or snackable content mean that your publication is no longer a main course for the mind? Fortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case. There will always be readers who are enticed by short pieces only to stick around and absorb longer ones as well. Your long-term readers who prefer long-form content can still get their share of in-depth material. But the digestible tidbits will attract new readers, as well as current readers who’d like a change of pace.
Even a publication chock-full of snackable content can pack a powerful informational wallop. It’s up to your editorial staff to schedule and position the various pieces so that they relate to each other, both side-by-side on the page and from one issue to the next. A true chef creates a multi-course meal in which each item contributes to a satisfying, substantial experience. So it should be with the digestible items on your digital bill or fare.
As for the prose itself, there’s nothing wrong with written content that is easy to absorb. Brevity, clarity, an arresting tone, a catchy title — these have always been qualities associated with high-quality writing. By focusing on making your content digestible, you may actually improve its overall standard of excellence even as you feed your circulation figures. Bon appetit!