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A Story about Stories that Aren't (Only) Told in Words

Leisure reading is at an all-time low. Did you know that? Even Steve Jobs pointed out back in 2008 that people are reading less than one book per year. But this article is not going to be about leisure reading or the decline in our literary culture.

Instead, let's play a friendly game of Ten Fingers. Put up all of your fingers, ok? For each truth that you are guilty of, take one finger down. Ready? (It's ok if you scroll with all of your fingers up, just ask Siri to do it for you...)

Never have I ever...

  • Used an emoji while typing
  • Used an emoji while not typing
  • Listened to a podcast
  • Used a hashtag in a live conversation
  • Used Siri (or Alexa) to Google a question
  • Lost my Kindle and haven't replaced it
  • Played Audible in my car
  • Read a blog article halfway until I got what I needed
  • Forgotten what it's like to read for pleasure
  • Responded to a Facebook message with a gif, instead of words

How many fingers do you have up? If you have more than ZERO, then you win (and I'll buy you coffee, for reals, hit me up), and I lose.

But like I said - this article isn't about feeling guilty for not carving out more reading time.

For heaven's sake, what is this article about, Jennifer?!

As culture and technology are changing, so is marketing. And the facts are out: people are skimming more, reading less "whole" pieces of content, listening to audio and using Siri as a Q&A session. With that in mind, I am going to try my darndest to keep your attention on the subject matter until the end of this article.

Content is like a smorgasbord, a media luncheon, a word buffet.

So how do we marketers adapt to an ever-changing, content-rich technology bubble? We do just that: adapt. And there are SO MANY options of how we can achieve it! We can get in step with the heartbeat of our "wordless era". Content consumers want better, richer media and shorter, more complex answers. It isn't a lack of intellect or interest that is taking our time and attention away from reading to the end. We are still reading and gathering information, we are just doing it at a faster, more complex pace.

Stories aren't only written in words. We are writing our own stories by gathering answers to life's problems at our own pace, in our own way. And, instead of reading someone else's ideas, we are interrupting their stories while interpreting our own:

  • Googling information and staying on websites for snippets of time, hitting the back button and doing it all over again.
  • Asking Siri about the weather or news while standing in the kitchen, hitting up your favorite recipe blogs
  • Youtubing the heck out of a DIY project before you go "all in"

Do not misunderstand - there is, and probably always will be - a place for hardcover books that isn't to collect bookshelf dust mites. But the technology of communication and the sharing of information is happening - and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

Using Technology to Engage Your Audience

You are the content curator of your world. How you consume it, will reflect how others in your generation will also consume it. Remember that, but also remember that in America, there are six generations - all with their own preferences about how they consume content.

As marketers, it is essential to understand how generations want to consume. (Read this if you want to have insight into the millennial generation.)

Because the content world is a vast ocean, it can be difficult to keep your audience's attention for very long. But when you do, it is called being engaged.

Engagement is not just for people getting married, it is also a marketers' term that means "mentally or emotionally connected to the content".

It is really recommended that you choose 2 or more media methods at a time if you want your audience to be engaged.

  • Podcasts
  • Articles
  • Voice Search
  • Video
  • Written word: articles/blogging/etc
  • Infographics
  • Picture
  • Memes
  • Gifs

Write for 20% Readership

Our last takeaway of the day is the 20% rule, based on a Nielson study from 2008, identifying that users only read 1/5th of website content. And that the back button is one of the most widely used features on the web. It seems that all you would have to do is make every 5th word good, and you will be able to satisfy your readers. (Joking, guys, joking).

You see - "I read an article" isn't meant to be a lie, but if you don't read the whole thing, then did you really read the article?

One final challenge: go to the bookstore and pick out a book you will enjoy reading, for absolutely no other reason than enjoyment.

'Til next time, friends... let your motives be true, words be honorable - and for everything else, do not be concerned!

update your marketing plan

Jennifer Bailey

Written by Jennifer Bailey

Enchantress of marketing strategy, digital development and creative spell-craft at Story Collaborative. Among rolling green hills and peaceful forests, an enchantress lived a quiet life surrounded by children and nature. But this enchantress was just as comfortable in the wilderness of the internet as she was in the wilderness of rural Virginia. With deep roots in digital marketing, Jennifer Bailey has 15 years of experience in cultivating organizational growth through conversion optimization, web development, search engine optimization, content development, and social media.