New Reader Profile: The Skimmer

My Brain On Bulletpoints

YOU are a SKIMMER! Do you like how I made “skimming” seem like a bad word? It’s not. I’m a skimmer too. With all of the information being bandied around the internet like the flu on a playground, how could we not skim? I don’t want to consume irrelevant content. It will clutter up the limited space in my head I reserve for things such as tying my shoes and recalling hilarious lines from Caddyshack. That’s why so much

• Content
• Is
• Written
• In
• Bullet
• Points.
It gives people some separation and organization. And they don’t even seem to read that far. With the advent of highly stylized technical manuals and text books they are trained to really only pay attention to

• The

• Things

• Written

• In

• Bold

• Letters

This works great for web content and blogs. Take for example articles written for any number of content mongers, Yahoo, AOL, MSN, etc. Those companies have found that they get the most “clicks” with articles that are short, full of bullet points, and as socially relevant as marshmallows are to the food pyramid. Articles that once would have gotten a journalist’s cajones-permanently-edited are now the very cream of the content crop: “Five Ways You Know Your Boyfriend is Cheating”, “Seven Best Vacation Spots”, “Top Ten Celebrity Moles”. These are written for the skimmer in all of us. What do these articles offer?
1. Scope – People know by the number in the title (5, 7, & 10) what the length of article is that they’re about to get into.
2. No Commitment – People have come to expect that they can read the bold headers to the points with little effort. Example: “Oh, Madonna has the number one mole…how interesting. Where is it? Do I care?”
3. Volume – Those lists require no discernable talent or thought to write so anyone can get in on the business. This gives a constant flow of irrelevant lists to peruse and forward onto facebook.

The ads that accompany this stream of literary fodder are the cream. The sentences are chock full of keywords, links, and metadata. In fact, they are only a business, the words have no value.

How have we gotten here?
Where’s here? Here is where words have no value as compared to what is surrounding them or what is behind them. And when you look around them or click through them the content is even more shallow and useless. Well, it started with the first gossip column. That kind of pop culture asteroid, when pushed into space, just keeps on truckin’ at a consistent speed with one direction in mind, forward. Is it forward toward profit? Hell no! Profit is in its origin, it goes forward toward minutia to make room at the epicenter for more profitable crap. That’s the difference between good wine and bad wine. The good stuff is crafted, limited, and aged, thus getting more valuable with age. The bad wine is made, consumed, and then more of it is made because god-forbid people sober up enough to realize the crap that their drinking. And if you leave it…good luck even cooking with it.

Once writing became profitable the quality immediately plummeted…but you can only rewrite the Bible so many times before you need to move on (ba-dum-bum). Books used to be coveted. People collected magazines. People paid for newspapers for reasons other than starting campfires. Sure, we pay for the internet now, but the monetary commitment for the consumer reading things has ended. The internet charge is for access only, not content. The consumer will get exactly what they’re paying for. Access to free profitable words. Bitter wine.

Written by Jeremy Cairns


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