How to catch readers’ attention online

The internet is changing the way our brain works. How we look at objects, read texts, remember information, it is not what it used to be. The reason the internet is changing our brain, is that by using the internet as intensely as we are, we are training our brain to effectively scan the enormous amounts of information we can find online. We’ve learned to pick out relevant quotes, numbers or names within the blink of an eye.

Lately, people have started to notice that this online behavior has created the inability to finish reading a book or a lengthy article. Nicholas Carr has even questioned if Google was making us stupid. “Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

In the abundance of our connected society we need to find new ways of communication. For writers there are two ways to go: offer short texts and summarized information or motivate readers to spend time and effort on lenghty articles. The majority of webistes and online writers seems to go for the first solution, but recently there have been some attempts to attrack readers’ prolonged attention.

One way of motivating readers to spend time and effort on online pieces, is by adding other forms of media. The New York Times wrote about a group of skiers caught in an avalanche at Tunnel Creek. There are mangageable amounts of text alternated with moving images, video’s and on demand background information. The Guardian published a similar article on the way an Austrialian family survived a bushfire in Tasmania by hiding in the water. The short pieces of text are divided into chapters and paragraphs on a background of moving images, interviews and photo’s with audio comments.

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