Here’s why: No one bothers to read anymore.
We are all tik-tokked and insta-ed to within an inch of our attention span.
A few weeks ago I wrote what I thought was a brilliant column on “what if no one wore make-up?”
A reader sent me a link to a short video of a comedian who did the same riff a few years earlier.
I watched it and laughed. But what bothered me was that he made the same point in 30 seconds that took me 750 words. It struck me that it was a metaphor for how information is being communicated everywhere today.
My compadres in the marketing and writing fields used to lament back in the 1990s that the public’s attention span for consuming ads and other content was something like 12 minutes. By the 2000s it was 4-5 minutes, then shortened to 3 minutes. Today, holding a screen-scroller’s attention for 140 characters or 30 seconds has become a stretch.
I get it: Brevity is the soul of wit. Anyone who can make their point in the time it takes to blow your nose deserves accolades. It just makes it more of an elusive quest to get someone to spend even two minutes reading your 750 words.
It’s definitely generational. While I regularly hear feedback from readers who are septuagenarians, no one under the age of 40 ever comments or even reads my columns. When I was that age, every writer’s dream was to complete a novel. I never thought I’d see the day when 750 words would be considered long-form literature.
Ultimately it is the writer’s responsibility to capture, hold, and enlighten the reader. Only the most arrogant would blame the consumer for not consuming what he hath created. Yet we do.
The better course is to take it as a challenge and opportunity to improve one’s communication skills, no matter the medium, maturity, or minutes allotted.
PS This is the shortest column I’ve ever written.