Just before Christmas, while reviewing some fresh web copy, somebody said: “People are not reading online, they only scan copy”. The comment threw me back 15 years, to the early days of my career.
Fl. 5.000,- website scan
Back then, I was a copywriter with an agency. The internet was quite new, at least to the Dutch masses, and as most organisations, our clients struggled to understand specific requirements of the web, and how to integrate it into their overall marketing and communication strategies. We thought we knew better, and helped them out. In “Writing for the web” courses, we would say things like “Use short sentences”, “Try to use bulleted lists”, “Remember: Keep it simple; just one topic per paragraph”, and “Subheadings give your copy a solid structure, and will give you a higher ranking in Altavista and Netscape”. For 5000 Dutch guilders (~EUR2250, ~USD3000), we offered a “Website scan”. It was good business. Google had just arrived. I received 15 emails per day. If even.
I may sound like an old badger to you. Social media are in about the same place right now. I think I received 15 emails a day in December with offers for a Social Media scan.
2 weeks to respond
I joined that agency right after college. One of my professors hated email. He said: “They hooked me up with an email account. I hate email. You know what? If I receive a written letter, I read it once, twice, three times before I put it down. I usually take a couple of days to think about the letter, and my response. I sit down to write. Sometimes I write three versions before manually copying it onto my letterhead. It’s a very personal thing, I will never ask my assistant to do it. Out of the question! So on average, I need about two weeks to respond to a letter. On average, I receive about 10 letters a week. It’s quite different with email. I receive an email, and if I didn’t respond within – say – 2 days, the guy rings me and says: “Hey I sent you an email, can you please respond?”. And I already receive 10 emails a day. I hate it, it’s impossible for me to correspond like that!”
In a recent magazine interview, somebody said: “This is the age of the opinion. Everybody has an opinion on just about everything. There seems to be less and less room for ambivalence and doubt. It’s actually quite okay to have an opinion based on just limited subject knowledge.”
We don’t read. We scan and have an opinion anyway. So who needs words in 2012? My prediction: Next year, Twitter will tune down to just 70 characters per tweet – commas and question marks will no longer be allowed.
Top 5 blog posts 2011
For this blog, these 5 posts drew most attention, comments and retweets: