Getting Readers’ Attention

Posted by Kristin Kowalski

Money doesn’t grow on trees – or does it? In the above social experiment, Amy Rosenthal wanted to discover how people would react to free money. She even put labels on each bill encouraging passers-by to take one. Judging by the video, it seems like most people wouldn’t even notice if money did grow on tress. So what does that mean for journalists?

People are always looking for ways to save time and do things more efficiently. Many people just don’t seem to have any time to spare. A lot of the people in the video are too focused on where they’re going or are in too much of a rush to notice their surroundings. When I walk around campus, I see people are constantly texting or talking on the phone while walking. Doing one thing at a time never seems like enough.

As writers, we have to take all of this into consideration when we write because it is only getting more difficult to draw readers into a story. In online writing we have to be shorter, punchier and get to the point more quickly in order to keep someone reading. Bloggers use links and comments to grab readers from sites on related topics. Newspapers and magazines have to have an online presence to survive and maintain readership. Journalists are expected to do more than just write. Now they have to write, edit, get graphics and format a story for online including photos or video.

Time is money. What skills and writing techniques do you think journalists need to utilize in order to attract the attention of distracted readers?

Now, how many of you actually watched the full five minute and ten second video above? I’m guessing not all of you did because it’s a longer video than we’ll typically watch without some sort of motivation to do so. If you did watch the whole thing, what made you keep watching?

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2 responses to “Getting Readers’ Attention

  1. First of all, I am guilty of not watching the whole video. I watched about 45 seconds and decided it would be the same for new 4 minutes. Viewers are looking for quick ways to be entertained because our attention span is worse than a new puppy. I completely agree with your statement “doing one thing at a time never seems like enough.” I am always juggling multiple tasks at once. I think we put too much on our plates and do not have enough time to complete everything one at a time.

    As for ways to hold onto distracted viewers, I think journalists need to get straight to the point. Readers are going to look right past a long story and search out the quick-reads. In regards to a magazine’s website, they should focus on the main articles and limit filler info that might be overlooked.

  2. “People would look at the money tree — but not even see it.” Boy, I know I’m guilty of “looking but not seeing” a lot in life.

    So yes, I watched the whole video. I thought it was a lovely bit of storytelling. A scene, a setting, great characters, “dialogue,” pacing, rhythm, tension, denouement. Yet one more example of how storytelling doesn’t always need to be the written word.

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