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I thoroughly enjoy eating. It’s one the  best activities going.

Sometimes snack sized fare is best, sometimes an elaborate meal hits the spot.

I recently listened to Tom Peters speak about the growing dominance of “snack sized” internet content. His point, an obvious one to anyone who spends a lot of time online, is that shorter and smaller content has become de rigeur due to the way people ingest info in the digital age.

Then, I saw this great guest post from the always hilarious Griddy on Gini Dietrich’s blog. In it, Griddy makes the point that size (of content) matters less than some claim.

In her words,  it is “not the length that counts but how you manage to remain interesting and captivate your readers till the end.”

Hard to argue with. But, I believe, Peters is right about the direction things are going.

Back to food for a sec.

I know this: you only get so full from a snack. Likewise, you only learn so much from snack sized content. Sometimes a full meal is required to get a full picture about a complex subject.

Simplicity is a great learning tool and a big part of my job. But, as a professional simplifier, I can say that certain concepts defy severe reduction and cannot be served as snacks. Certain insights TAKE TIME TO EXPLAIN!

Here is my Luddite-esque fear: the digital universe is creating this cadre of low attention span folks who can only digest snack sized content. This is truly unfortunate, because we get only so mentally nourished from the content world’s equivalent of a Cheesy.

Whether we think about an 800 word op ed piece from Tom Friedman, a Dostoyevsky novel or a Scorsese movie, there is ample evidence to attest to the power of longer/larger/fuller content.

I hope my kids grow up to see things the same way and are able to digest content far more complex than this little snack of a post.

What do you think?

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Krista says:

    Is it ironic that I find myself reading your post during an afternoon snack break? Seriously, I’m half-way through an oatmeal cookie and 12-oz. cup of coffee…

    But enough about food, you raise a good point Jackson, and one that I find myself struggling with as I sift through various posts and articles of information each day. From the professional perspective, I can see where snack-size info helps with some forms of communication (a fact sheet, perhaps). However, there are other types of communication that require more detail. Coming from the pharma/healthcare world, I can tell you it’s very difficult to offer snack-sized explanations of clinical trial results or complex disease states.

    From the personal perspecitve, I often sort various articles and posts between those that I will scan and those I will read with more attention. It’s kind of sad, but I try to process so many different forms of information that I have to prioritize them. But I still have hope for reading as an actual recreation where I can exercise my mind to better absorb information. In fact, I’m determined to finish a 400-page nonfiction book in my off time to prove to myself that I’m not incapable of reading for fun!

  • Hey Jackson,
    How very kind of you to mention my guest article that I wrote for Spin Sucks 🙂 . Thank you very much!

    In all honesty, I think Tom Peters (as well as many others) makes a very good point about “snack-sized” internet content. It’s true that in today’s day and age – we spend countless hours glued to our screens and therefore reading nuggets are sometimes easier than having to ready a 2,000 word blog post.

    The point I was trying to make in my post was exactly what you said up here. If you can manage to keep your readers entertained till the end – than they may not care as much about the length. I have rarely come across pieces written by highly-distinguished journalists that are 2 to 300 words. I’m sure the topic at hand definitely matters but in general – at least the ones I’ve read – tend to have a couple “click the next page” to read on.

    But then again – maybe blog posts are different in this case. And maybe the timing of when your audience is reading your post makes a difference. Our attention spans tend to vary during different times of the day (or night). Sometimes you’re in the mood for something nice an short that full of insight and other times you’re in the mood for a good story.

    I suppose this leads me to repeat what I also said in my guest post – and that is: Know your audience. Know what they like and what they seem to enjoy reading. But I also believe that you should write for yourself as well as for your audience.

    I say mix and match – cause it’s your blog and therefore your rules. have your own unique style. Be engaging – talk to and with your readers and not at them.

    Plus, I’m not sure you want to get your audience use to just one length – cause then that’s what they’ll expect every time. And there are times when we can say what we need to in 400 words and others when we need 1,500.

    Anyhow – I think you know I could go on about this and tell you and your readers what I said in my post and the reasons I gave for each – long or short – but instead, I’m hoping they’ll go read it lol 😉 .

    As for Thomas Friedman and Dostoyevsky – great examples. Being fromt he Middle East (Lebanon) I am quite familiar with the works of Friedman as he does concentrate a lot both on the area and on Lebanon itself.

    Dostoyevsky on the other hand – I think 800 pages is more like it haha. I believe the first book I read of his was “Crime and Punishment” back in high school. My thoughts – he’s a literary genius (for lack of a better word). Actually you just made me want to read it again – I’m sure that book will sink differently when you read it at 15 and when you read it at XX hehe.

    I would hope that although we can’t always be willing to read the longish post vs. the shorter one – if we had to or felt like it – our educated brains could handle it.

    Alright – I think I’ve said enough – and I’m almost pretty sure that this comment surpassed the “norm” that many propose is ideal haha. Oh well…

    Thanks again for taking the time to write this up and use these great examples. And of course thank you for referring to my piece. I really appreciate it.

    Have a good week.

    PS – If parts of this comment are incoherent – my very good excuse is that I’m going on less than 5 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours 🙁 .

  • Danny Starr says:

    there will always be a place for longer content… just don’t expect many people to read it.

  • Krista: I have recently started reading long works of fiction again (like 800+ pages stuff) since I was getting worried that I could no longer do it 🙂 Totally get what you’re saying.

    Griddy: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Again, kudos on the post

    Dan: Unfortunately you are right I fear.

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