The State of Reading in 2018: Digital Fatigue’s Effects on Content Creation - Craft Your Content

The State of Reading in 2018: Digital Fatigue’s Effects on Content Creation

By Melissa Lewis Grimm | Articles | Reading Time: 13 minutes

Jan 08
digital fatigue

Creating effective content that engages your audience is key in this day and age where people consume so much information digitally. However, it is also becoming more difficult each day, as the average reader gives only 15 seconds of their attention to an article. People tend to “skim” long-form content and blog posts instead of digesting paragraph after paragraph of text.

People are getting tired of consuming content through the same types of format, so they are looking to other options for reading. More and more people are choosing paper books instead of e-readers because, although paper books are long-form content, they aren’t as harsh on the eyes as digital devices and provide a much-needed break from glowing screens. Sometimes, people simply like to hold the real thing instead of reading text from a device.

The use of audiobooks is increasing steadily. The ability for people to fit reading into their crazy busy schedules coupled with Americans’ desire for constant productivity and multitasking has led to this bump in sales.

The proliferation of blog posts and other online content affects how people view reading. Readers have difficulty staying focused on one thing for too long and they have a myriad of ways to consume content these days, so it’s difficult to finish reading every article or blog post that they click on.

In a world where attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, you can make a significant impact on your marketing plan if you explore how to develop and publish content that will grab customers’ attention and focus. You just have to take a little time to first understand this fast-paced digital world we’re living in.

We Are Living in a Digital World

But I am not a digital girl, actually. I’m like an 83-year-old woman trapped inside a 38-year-old’s body. I tend to fight technology for fear it’s taking over the world, making people stupid and lazy (can’t really argue with this one, right?), and creating platforms for people to share their ideas to the masses who can’t discern fact from fiction.

As someone who didn’t have a PC until I was in 10th grade (and it was a used computer from the company my mom worked for because they were switching theirs out for new models), it’s hard for me to understand how people rely on technology so much. But I’m clearly in the minority.

Most people not only like or even love technology, but they crave it. Their mobile devices are practically glued to their hands, and they stare at glowing screens for hours every day. They read stuff on their phones while they’re crossing the street and run into people or trip and fall because they are zoning out. (This is pretty funny, actually, and don’t you dare feel bad for them!)

People feel lost without their phones, like a toddler who can’t find their security blanket or fave stuffed animal, and they hear phantom ringing or feel phantom vibrations in their pockets. Even I, with my technology forcefield at full blast, check my phone way too often.

Despite our codependent relationship with technology, we are also affected by digital fatigue. People are tired of being constantly connected to a device, yet they think they’re missing out if they don’t keep up-to-date on the latest news and gossip. They feel like they can’t take off a day from work without having to check email or do some work on their computers. The fact that it’s so easy to be connected makes them feel guilty if they don’t respond to an inquiry or put out a work fire immediately.

Excessive usage of computer screens — whether they be mobile devices, laptops, or desktop computers — is tiring.

Not only do we have digital fatigue mentally, but our eyes can experience digital fatigue physically. After spending so much time staring at a computer screen, we feel the need to blink a lot, our eyes might feel dry or sore, and we are sensitive to light. I need to increase the point size of text or zoom into the text at about 130 percent to read it effectively, particularly while I’m editing or proofreading content.

People are fatigued by the sheer amount of long-form content to digest. Everywhere they turn, there are new blog posts or articles. Reading so much content on a daily basis is fatiguing, but how does this affect entrepreneurs who are writing blog posts and articles about their business?

How to Create Effective Content That Engages Your Audience

digital fatigue

Blog posts, blog posts everywhere, but not enough good ones to read!

It’s difficult to write effective and engaging content because people have access to so much information these days. How do they select what to read, what to skim, and what to pass over?

Overuse of digital devices causes people to feel inundated with constant information and find it difficult to choose what to read and what not to read. People can actually lose sleep because of the artificial light used in mobile devices and computers. Not only is the production of melatonin affected, but reading all those negative news stories right before bed can’t be mentally healthy. Digital fatigue strongly affects those who are always available on their phones and constantly checking emails, and could even lead to mental health issues.

Luckily, there are ways to develop content in a world where people have the attention span of a flea and have grown weary of reading so much on their digital devices.

Be Aware of How Often You Post New Content

Don’t publish a new blog post every day. It’s too much! If you replace your content too often, you won’t have the social media feedback needed to prove the content’s worth. However, make sure you consistently post enough new content to keep the attention of your audience.

Sounds contradictory, right?

But it’s true; you have to pay attention to the amount of text people can consume on a daily basis. You need to keep them wanting more, not hoping for less.

If you post new content only once every two or three weeks, people will forget to read your material and won’t care about checking for new information on your website. They’ll think if you don’t post often enough, you probably don’t have anything worthwhile to say.

Unless the posts are really short, your readers might be turned off if they have to read a daily article. Think about how many other companies’ posts they read or how many other social media accounts they follow. A daily tweet is probably fine, but be careful about overusing other media platforms.

Use Attention-Grabbing Headlines and Stay on Topic

Attention-grabbing headlines can make all the difference in persuading customers to choose to digest your content over someone else’s.

An effective headline can entice someone to not only click on the link but also read your entire post. Since people don’t have much time these days, they are selective about what they spend their precious time reading.

A great headline focuses on what the reader can get from viewing the piece. In just a few words, you need to concisely convey why they need to read your article now and what benefits they can get from doing so. Express what makes it unique from articles published by similar companies or on like topics, or write something that will trigger an emotional response from the reader and possibly compel them to take action. For example, the headline “Help Hungry Babies in Your Neighborhood Now” is much more effective than “How You Can Help Raise Money and Collect Food Donations for XYZ Company in the City This Saturday.” Using numbers can also help draw a reader’s eye, like “5 Simple Ways to Drop Holiday Weight” or “Easy Makeup Tricks to Look 10 Years Younger.”

But it’s not all about the attention-grabbing headlines if the content isn’t up to snuff and on topic with your brand.

Unless you’re a lifestyle blogger, people are likely looking for specific content on your website instead of subject matter that changes daily or weekly. Stick to topics that your audience wants to read and needs to learn about or they might go elsewhere for their daily reading.

Avoid Overly Self-Promoting or Promoting Too Many of Your Products

Your followers and customers already think you’re pretty great, so you don’t need to remind them about your accomplishments constantly. Braggarts, leave your ego at the door.

People are inundated with products everywhere they turn, so they’re already worn out before they’ve read your post. You’re not winning them over by shoving another product in their field of vision.

Self-promotion isn’t always a bad thing. If you are promoting a product or service that will help the reader in a very specific way, that’s fine. However, if you keep pushing the sale of your latest book, you’re going to turn off your audience or tire them out even more.

An occasional call to action (CTA) is fine if it’s placed at the bottom of a blog post rather than sprinkled throughout the piece, but you don’t want to hit the reader over the head with “Click here to buy my book” or “Learn more about that product here.” You should include links that you think are interesting, but don’t make the reader feel like they need to click on every one and read all the content within them. Too many links can be maddening and distracting. Entrepreneurial writers can instead include those CTAs in their marketing emails.

Don’t be braggadocious. If your content is of high quality, the words will speak for themselves. Strong, well-written content isn’t what’s tiring people out — it’s that they’re constantly being sold things!

Make Sure Your Content Is High-Quality and Aesthetically Pleasing

No one wants to waste their time reading poor-quality content with factual errors, grammatical errors, and the like. They feel as though they have to fact-check everything they read, and therefore, read even more articles. It’s exhausting! Make sure your content is of the highest possible quality so you can feel proud sharing the information with your customers and readers.

To help with the aesthetics of your content, include enough white space and images to break up the text. People are very visual these days, so they feel mired in the muck when they’re faced with paragraphs and paragraphs of running text.

Just as it’s important to pay attention to the appearance and format of your articles, making sure your website design is fresh and optimal for today’s audience (and doesn’t look like something from 10 years ago) is a great way to help your customers push past that digital fatigue.

If your website looks stale and you think it needs a tune-up, it’s time to update the appearance and set-up to draw in new customers and readers. You’ll lose a customer rather quickly if they don’t think you care enough to keep your website streamlined and eye-pleasing.

Move Beyond Blogging: Explore Different Ways to Publish Your Content

digital fatigue

For many entrepreneurs, blogging is the go-to method of driving traffic to their website and spreading the word about their business. But with so many companies writing blogs now, people can easily get tired of reading so many posts. Luckily, there are some alternative ways to publish effective supplemental content.

Exploring different methods of publishing your content, such as the ever-popular video content, can help grab readers’ attention and focus, as well as encourage engagement with your business or brand.

Infographics

Infographics are graphic visual representations of data or information designed to show information quickly. Material presented as charts, diagrams, and text images can be easily digested to educate and inform the reader about the subject matter. This different visual representation of text can be refreshing for a reader, since they can quickly absorb the information and it’s broken up with images, thus sidestepping digital fatigue.

Infographics are a great way to present data that makes people more aware of your brand and the success of your company as well as to highlight industry trends. For example, if you have numbers from a quarterly report that you want to make public for your readers, an infographic would be a great way to represent that data. If you want to show how your company’s growth in different sectors compares with that of other companies, an infographic could help you portray the information.

If you don’t have graphic design experience and don’t have a graphic artist on staff, fear not. There are online tools you can use to create an infographic. This website that provides a daily infographic can give you some ideas about what types you might want to create.

Videos

Videos are an extremely popular method to share your ideas in an enticing way. People around the world now watch one billion hours of YouTube every day.

As with blog posts, the frequency in which you publish videos is important. If you want to publish a weekly video, make sure you make it available on the same day every week. You can set it up to post automatically through sites like YouTube and Vimeo.

Make sure the video content is relevant to your other content and your brand, rather than just something random to try and go viral. Your audience doesn’t likely want to see a video of you cooking your latest concoction in the kitchen unless you’re a chef with a YouTube following.

Videos are a great way to supplement the written content you publish, so it’s important that the videos portray the same message as your other content. It could be helpful to create a video to supplement your most popular blog posts, or if a blog post is a how-to that would benefit from a demo for the customers, create a video for it!

Keep your content short. The beauty of videos is that people can obtain a lot of information in a brief period of time. Not many customers are going to grab a big bowl of popcorn and a soda and sit down to watch a 30-minute video. Two to five minutes is an adequate length for a video.

At the end of each video, you can remind the audience of when the next one will be published. “Check out my upcoming video next week where I’ll talk about _____, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!”

If breaking news in your industry drops on a Tuesday and you typically publish your videos every Thursday, publish an extra video that week to make sure you react to relevant newsworthy information instead of waiting for your regularly scheduled content.

Podcasts

Podcasts are less expensive to create than videos and are still very popular. People can listen to podcasts while they’re driving or riding the train on their way to work.

By listening to your voice on a podcast, customers will feel like they know you better than if they simply read your blog posts. If they feel like they have a relationship with the person speaking in the podcast, they will be more likely to use your products or services and suggest them to others. Customers might not experience digital fatigue as easily when they feel a sense of trust with the person on the podcast and are invested in the content of the business.

Audio formats like podcasts and audiobooks can cut down on digital fatigue by providing fresh options for weary readers.

Audiobooks

Audiobooks are the fastest-growing publishing format, while ebook sales are declining. According to Audible, “Listening is the new reading.”

Listening to audiobooks is a good way to multitask and get some things done around the house or while commuting, for example, while also taking in a good “read.”

Many successful entrepreneurs have published audiobooks, and you could join that illustrious group. You can record your own, even if you don’t have much experience. Or you can hire a voice actor to read it for you!

If you have published a book or are looking to publish one, creating it in audiobook format as well as print or electronic is an excellent way to reach a larger audience. Once you do publish an audiobook, make sure you promote it on social media.

Social Media

Social media posts are extremely popular ways of sharing content right now. Social media presence is imperative to the success of many businesses, and it goes hand in hand with blog posts and other content.

Online marketing is easier on social media platforms and helps you connect with your audience. You can refer to recent blog posts, and your customers can interact more directly with you regarding your posts. It they have already read too much information for the day and don’t have the energy to read your latest post yet, they can check out a brief synopsis of the article in your social media posts or see what’s coming up in the near future.

As of 2015, 69% of adults were using social media, and the use of social media is growing exponentially in many countries. So, for example, if a U.S.-based company is looking to go global, social media presence can help cultivate relationships with customers from around the world and in potentially untapped markets. This growth in social media is due in part to the ease of use and the ability to interact easily and directly with other people. And the character limit on certain social media platforms is perfect for people who are trying to get away from reading so much information every day.

Note that simply having social media accounts is not enough; you need to be active on social media. The majority of retail brands use two or more social sites.

In your social media posts, include a link to a landing page you’ve created on your website. That way, you are almost guaranteed that a certain number of people will click on the link and visit the page. Social media presence can also improve your SEO by making your content more visible and helping to build brand awareness.

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of posting on social media and responding to customer inquiries, hire a social media manager or director to handle that for you. Or if you already have someone on staff that is super tech-savvy, see if they would be willing to take on that responsibility along with their current role in the company.

If you’re a solopreneur and can’t afford to hire someone, roll up your sleeves and dig into learning how to post on social media platforms effectively. You don’t want to miss the boat!

Case Studies

A case study explains what your product or service is and how it helped one of your customers. It’s like telling a story to your audience, which makes them more receptive to accepting the information provided. People enjoy hearing stories much more than being sold something, and they can easily see how your product or service is useful in real-life situations by reading a concise case study, as opposed to reading entire articles or posts hoping to glean that information. A short case study helps combat digital fatigue by not forcing the reader to digest unnecessary information.

Let’s say you have a new product that is the best on the market at relieving lower back pain. By focusing on the customer and how their problems were solved by using your product, other potential customers will be more apt to purchase that same product after reading a heartfelt story about its effectiveness with a real-life customer.

These case studies from The New York Times provide good examples of effective case studies.

Case studies focus on the customer and provide learning opportunities for your readers. They’re a great way to showcase solutions that you can provide for customers through your services or products.

Including direct quotes from your customers or clients lends credibility to the material. In addition, your customers will be thrilled that they are included in a case study that gets their name out there and draws attention to them.

Case studies can be in text format or in video form. They can be repurposed for use on sections of your website or in marketing materials.

Rethink the Way You Create Content to Reach Readers Affected by Digital Fatigue

digital fatigue

Finding ways to engage your customers in your content is difficult these days, but it’s not impossible. By looking at the ways you currently develop content, you can add some new forms of publishing content to help market yourself and your company, retain your current customers, and gain new ones from around the globe by simply publishing some of your content in different formats.

Incorporate more exciting content to supplement your blog posts by using formats such as:

  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Audiobooks
  • Social media
  • Case studies

People are tired of reading the same old, same old. So, shake things up a bit and expand the ways you share content with your customer base. If done the right way, your time and effort will pay dividends.

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About the Author

Melissa Lewis Grimm, ELS, graduated from Millersville University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She has worked as an editor and a marketing manager for a laboratory standards–developing organization, a proofreader for a nursing continuing education provider, and a journal manager for a scientific and medical publishing company. Despite Melissa’s work history, one of her lofty goals is to become a world-famous voiceover talent. Yes, you read that correctly! She loves spending time with her wonderful husband and adorable toddler.