Attention, attention

My, isn’t Tumblr so very popular right now? The nobrainer way to blog, it’s all about the quick photo, newsy snippets and reblogged posts which are so user-friendly for our ever-decreasing attention spans. I’m fascinated because since I first started working for online publications I have watched the patterns of content change over time.

In 1999 I started working for a women’s website where I would contribute 400-word fashion articles broken into paragraphs and illustrated with a picture. These were read by women in offices who would browse the site in their lunch hour. As more magazine-style sites emerged and there was more competition, articles became shorter. “People don’t want to read long articles at a desk, they want Top Ten slide-shows with images and a tip,” I was told. These were the days before everyone had a laptop and reading on screens became the norm. The years passed, the iPhone was created, WiFi appeared and we all became quite comfortable reading content online. Blogs flourished and people became interested in personal opinion. Word count increased. Blog count multiplied. Twitter arrived and information addicts rejoiced. Then despaired. (Guilty!)

With all this ready information, the brain can’t cope. We worry about our children and how they will learn to focus with so many distractions. Tumblr emerges and is a runaway success. Why? Because it’s bite-sized blogging, a way to keep up without going into detail. It’s blogging-lite for the time-poor. (Pity the brands and old school bloggers tearing their hair out – “aaargh, another social media platform to manage!”) At the same time, the rise of the two-minute video threatens to take over from the written blog post – young people especially would rather watch a moving image than read. So in effect we’re at the top-ten-slide-show stage again where people want short form over long. Interestingly, when I read about the latest issue of the New York Post’s new(ish) Alexa paper it seemed very appealing – a thin, well-edited fashion newspaper that has just-indepth-enough information to digest in one go (there’s an online version too). When you read on paper, you take in more. Having noticed how much time I spend looking at screens (and how little information I retain long term), digesting paper journalism from the comfort of a sofa is almost a novelty. So I’m not panicking. We’re in the midst of a micro-information moment and I’m happy to ride it out. It looks like there’s a slower, more considered alternative lurking round the corner which I’ll willingly embrace – if my brain hasn’t exploded by then.

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8 Responses to Attention, attention

  1. Khatija says:

    Interesting article, I totally agree. I still can't believe things like kindle are so popular, it feels wrong to read a book off a screen. My sister does the same with her ipad, just wrong. Call me old fashion but I just can;t do it!

  2. David Watts says:

    I fully agree with what you are saying and (guilty as charged for uploading the odd 2 min video) but I really beleive it will change again. People's attention span is changing no question, but many are feeling visually bombarded and are looking for an interesting 'point of view' which is why Blogging came into being in the first instance. I believe 'more words' over images will return and I for one cannot wait!

  3. tallullahelle says:

    Mmmm, I love the visual aesthetic of this broadsheet – it's the kind of layout I'd love to eplicate on my blog. Tumblr is all very well and good but I like information and opinions rather than a long list of 'likes' or 'reblogs'. I use it merely to quickly collate pictures that I want to use in my REAL blog.

  4. Susan says:

    Great post. Blogger seems positively Stone Age these days. But, hey, isn't that a hot trend? Bring on slow blogging…

  5. Glowing Doll says:

    I just gave Tumblr another go and started a blog for my photos that don't make it into mny main blog. Tumblr does frustrate me though, I'm not used to having such little control. I like that you can customise blogspot even with little or no knowledge of html.

  6. That's Not My Age says:

    Excellent post – sometimes new media can feel a bit overwhelming – personally I still love a newspaper and I'm all for slow blogging!

  7. safra says:

    Thanks for putting me on the new mag. I've tried Tumblr, it's cool. i mean, it's all interconnected anyway. one should fluidly lead into the other.

  8. Ondo Lady says:

    I agree with Khatija that reading a book on a Kindle or iPad just feels incorrect. I love books and the experience of flipping from page to page. It is funny how popular Tumblr has become recently, I like what the fashion brands are doing with it – using it as an extension of their website. However, I am a wordsmith and pretty pictures are nice but I need more than that.

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