Audience over-saturation is simply a reality of our times. Our readers have to spend more time than ever before filtering and sifting through vast quantities of content to get to what they need.
Here are a few more basic strategies to grab and keep their attention.
1. Don’t Lose Your Reader with Your First Sentence
Think about how many times you have clicked a link for information (very specific information) like: How to Write Better Headlines for Your Articles. And the article begins… “When I was seven, my grandfather took me fishing for the first…”
Click. I’m out.
I wanted info about headlines… why the blazes am I hearing about someone’s fishing trip. I’m not interested in a story about some unknown person’s first fishing trip – EVEN if they are, eventually, going to make some really clever connection about how you have to get someone to “bite” and tie it back to the fishing story in some hilarious way.
Sorry. I don’t have time for that.
Most of the time, when we are reading for information – to learn something – humor, cleverness, even insight are not appreciated.
As a parent, I have to skim through school newsletters weekly for information I might need.
Sometimes someone gets playful with the language. Their title is coy. It’s intended to intrigue me, make me want to read further.
It doesn’t. Instead, now I have to skim the body of the paragraph for hints about what this is, whether it is something I need to know, and now… I am annoyed.
Either that or, being short on time, I skip it altogether and hope it was nothing I needed.
2. Don’t Try to Entertain Me… Please
It’s not that I don’t appreciate someone’s effort to be interesting. But I’m not reading the school newsletter for “interesting.” I’m not reading an article on writing great headlines, because I want to laugh.
If I ever get to the end of my “must do or life will end” list today, then I’m going to go read something a WHOLE lot more engaging.
It might be Mark Twain today. Honestly, you don’t want to compete with Twain. Or Dave Eggers (cause it also might be Eggers). If I’m in the mood for sassy, I might go for Dave Sedaris… or Christine Stevens, because she’s just killing me at the moment.
(And if your article really can compete with that crowd, then you must cease writing articles immediately and get thee to a computer to write a masterpiece, because many people – myself included – will want to read it.)
3. Don’t Be Clever… Be Clear
Make it as EASY AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE for someone to quickly, AND I MEAN QUICKLY, get what they need – grab and go. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am!
Structure so that someone can effectively skim for content that is relevant for them. It’s a sad state of affairs, but the reality is that much of the time today – we skim read. I know… the thought makes my skin crawl too.
On the other hand, this new reality, forces us to be concise and precise as writers (which is not such a bad thing). It forces us to do the heavy lifting when it comes to prioritizing content and determining what is of critical value and what can go.
Don’t be cute. Don’t be clever. Don’t be ambiguous.
I’ll go read Agatha Christie if I want mystery.