If you’re reading this article, I’ve obviously piqued your interest using only a headline – and statistically you are a minority, as recent research indicates that a mere two out of ten people read past the headline of an online article.
While this might shock some, every member of Gen Z coming into the media industry right now has been given this statistic at university. Not only has digital media surpassed the interactive nature of offline media, but our online interactions can now be classed as ‘shallow’ or ‘deep’. You may be asking yourself how someone can indirectly interact with content, but the matter of fact is that 80% of interactions online are shallow. In fact computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute found that 59% of articles shared on social media weren’t even read by the individual before they shared it, and in most cases they hadn’t even clicked the link.
The origin of this new complication is a shift in our cognitive process as we incorporate technology into how we communicate and learn. The consequence of having the world in our pockets is that we absorb information in a totally new way. Due to the sheer volume of information online, we have developed a screening process which PR professionals refer to as the ‘value verses effort’ mindset or the ‘Twitter effect’. If it isn’t obvious to the reader within the first 25 characters that the information you are posting is interesting or important, the brain will lose attention and move on.
Your piece of media could be the most informative and well written article of the day but as this data shows, you could be wasting your time. It’s not about giving away the whole story in one sentence, or on the other hand, making it so vague it could be seen as a spam article. It’s about forming interest whilst still staying as representative of the story as possible.
Take for example Buzzfeed, who have perfected the art of clickbait. They have not only successfully created a non-linear format using images and memes, but their text is structured into micro paragraphs. Not only does this maintain interest but the interactive nature of their journalism draws users to commit to reading the entire story. When you break down their techniques it is easy to see why Buzzfeed is one of the most popular blogs for users under 35.
So, to stand out from a sea of wordy online articles that aren’t even read in the first place, try to mix it up with different techniques and make sure you’re not only interested in your own work but make sure that your first impression is as relevant and alluring to your audience as possible. Be the brand that flips the figures and gets eight out of ten people reading past the headline!
Agent Intern Sam