It happens daily. I click on web content with a headline (or photo or graphic) that lures me in, only to find that I have to read a lot of copy to get a simple point.
I understand that many who write for the web, just like newspaper columnists, have an optimum word count. Not every topic can be addressed properly within those guidelines. Making a bigger or smaller idea fit into that standard size hole takes skill.
My point is that you need to make your point early on. Don’t take me on a long ride for a small payoff. Don’t go down one road and suddenly take a left turn down another. Don’t give me all the backstory up front. Give me what I came for and then amplify and clarify.
This is 2012. We consume ideas and information all day. We generally want what TV news consultants call “high story count.” That means more chunks of content, but in smaller chunks. I believe this is why Twitter is popular: you have 140 characters to get to the point.
Have you ever bailed out of an online video quickly because there was too much dillydallying at the beginning? Have you ever zoned out at a presentation or in class because the speaker spent too much time beating around the bush before sharing what you came to hear?
Have you ever read a lengthy press release whose first two or three paragraphs are filled with the writer’s flowery prose—when all you wanted was the basic information? I have and it is frustrating and disheartening. (Have you ever written such a release? Well, stop it!)
Don’t presume that your reader has lots of time. Don’t presume that your reader is as attentive as you are. Whether your next writing effort is a major piece of content for your company/client or an email to your grandmother, get to the point.