This is what a scroll used to look like:
And this is what it looks like today:
As journalism evolves it is beginning to live up to the nickname “headline service.”
Today “reading the news” means reading a 140-character tweet. According to the Pew Research Center, 23 percent of Americans read a printed newspaper and twenty-nine percent read an online newspaper. Of that 29 that0 read news online, 38 percent of them do not even scroll past the top of the page.
Chartbeat, a program that analyzing real-time web traffic for media companies, collected data that said a majority of online news readers (that scroll down the page) only end up reading about half of an article. This chart, from the slate.com, shows just that.
That means that most of you reading this should be stopping right about now if you haven’t already (I know all of those numbers at the beginning were a lot to handle).
A variety of companies (from local TV stations to HealthCare.gov) hire Chartbeat to analyze their data. Since it is in real-time they can see how long visitors stay on the page and how far down the page they look.
Their data not only proves that people do not read entire pages, but that there is no correlation between how much they read and the number of shares the page gets on social media. This means that when people share articles online they probably haven’t even read the whole thing.
What does this mean for journalists?
Less writing, more summarizing.
The inverted pyramid format has never been more important than it is now. Writers need to stuff as much information as they can in the lead of stories. Just like in the “old days” when the most important headlines were above the newspaper fold, the most important information needs to be before a scroll.
Learn to write 140-character articles.
Otherwise known as tweets, the ability to grab a reader’s attention in a tweet is necessary. Better yet, tell the entire story in a tweet.
Leave them wanting more.
It’s all about the links. Give readers a taste of something juicy and make them want to explore. If they like what you are writing, give them opportunities to read on and find out more about the topic.
Although this seems like depressing news, I like to think of it as more of a pep-talk for reporters. Engage audiences quickly and make them care enough to read on. With that as the goal we will certainly defeat the scroll.