Opinion

How to catch eyes of distracted netizens

How to catch eyes of distracted netizens
  • Create attention-holding headlines for online content. Fold up ideas in crisp paragraphs, each one carrying only one idea.
  • Separate different ideas with attention-grabbing sub-headings. Highlight key and emphatic words in a story in eye-catching colours.

The Internet has an absorbing power. Once one is online, it's impossible to keep up with torrential jets of information, all baying to be acknowledged. Life online is hurried and harried.

SLIPPERY

To catch the attention of online people is like catching fish with bare hands: Slippery. How do we get back the lost focus?

We no longer manage to keep their eyes off their gadgets, and that's putting it mildly. One cannot wait in a supermarket line, nor can drivers keep their eyes on the lights at a traffic light. We fill every white space with a glance at a website, a click on a video clip, or a quick text on an app.

With a vast population now living online, one would imagine that the best way to share information would be to place it on the online media. But, a growing body of evidence shows that's not always the case. We spend too much time online scanning content but not soaking in much. Our attention is severely shredded.

EMOJIS

The news media is feeling the bane of attention deficit. The idea that a wealth of information creates a scarcity of attention has never been so real.

The allure of short messages has swayed many well-read writers previously sworn to remain devoted to the rules and rituals of grammar. That's not all: the texts are abbreviated. The verbs and nouns have vanished, and their place was taken by emojis.

In 2014, for example, the Associated Press, the world's largest independent news organisation, urged its journalists to keep articles in the 300–500 words range. It shouldn't be surprising because it fits into the theme: we spend a few seconds on each headline and move on. We can't keep up with the increasing flood of information.

Recent studies show, people often determine whether to read an online article based on its title. If the heading is appealing, they read the first paragraph and then the next. Few people have the nerve to read uninterrupted for more than three minutes.

REPETITION

So, how can one enhance the readership of online content?

Create attention-holding headlines for online content. Fold up ideas in crisp paragraphs, each one carrying only one idea. Separate different ideas with attention-grabbing sub-headings. Highlight key and emphatic words in a story in eye-catching colours.

If the content is for marketing a product or a service, adhere to the rule of seven. The rule of seven states that for one to pay attention to something, they need to see it at least seven times. Therefore, important pieces of an article should be repeated. Repetition can be the most powerful part of your content strategy.

INTEREST

Short video clips either on their own or accompanied by brief text can arouse interest for wide readership and viewership, just as stories with appealing pictures.

Mr. Wambugu is an informatician. Email: Twitter: @samwambugu2​