What Our Changing Reading Habits Mean for Your Marketing Strategy

Pete Schauer

Marketing Director

Here’s some food for thought: people are reading more frequently, yet they’re reading less material than ever before. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of non-book readers has tripled over the last quarter century. Today, 23% of Americans haven’t read a book within the past year. In 1978, the number was at just 8%.

You may be able to relate to these findings in your personal life. Perhaps you spend tons of time on your smartphone or tablet taking in information from blogs, news articles, quizzes, status updates, forums, comments, etc. These sources provide you with news, give you an outlet for discussing your favorite TV shows and allow you to discover what your friends are up to. You then use this information to shape your perception of the world around you.

Still, with everything that you take in, you’re not exactly reading a novel or a newspaper column. Your reading habits have certainly changed from either your past habits or your parents’ and grandparents’ past habits. Collectively, our society is reading fewer newspapers, magazines, and books.

This change is what creates unique challenges for marketers today. They must balance short and long-form content. They must offer a mix of serious, informational pieces along with some funny, light-hearted ones. And they must know when to deliver the content for the best engagement.

Let’s take a look at how marketers are currently reaching their audience and what this means for your business.

Readers Respond Better to Visual Content

 

Not all content includes written words. When you want to demonstrate something to your audience, visual content is a wonderful way to acquire their interest and hook them in. You may be a storyteller pro by this point, but if not, that’s okay too. The important thing is that you work toward better visual content that evokes emotion, tells a story and encourages your audience to respond.

Visual content shouldn’t take the place of written content, however. You still need compelling copy to educate your audience and position yourself as an industry leader. Instead, visual content is meant to supplement your written content and show your audience that there are multiple ways to tell a story.

Fabricated Titles Draw People In

Sensationalized titles were once a no-no in the journalism world, but today, they are the “it” factor. The reason for this is because people have access to an enormous amount of content, which is at ultimate competition. If the titles are bland, boring or predictable in any way, people have a way of skipping over them. It’s like they aren’t even recognized by the brain. Fabricated titles, on the other hand, draw people in and urge them to click on the article.

At the same time, it’s extremely important that you never mislead readers just to amp up your headline. You should always deliver the promised content and have equally engaging material to support the savvy headline. But unless your piece is something completely unique or original, you’re going to have to push the boundaries and reel people in with a creative, hyped-up introduction.

Niche Content Grabs Your Audience

Just a couple of decades ago, if you wanted a book, you had to go out and get it. You could purchase it from the bookstore or rent it from the library, but those were your options. Today, people can download ebooks and other forms of content in a matter of seconds. The content is delivered to them on their mobile device, and they can read it wherever they are.

With this capacity, it’s no surprise that the ebook industry has grown into a $6 billion industry. Luckily, you can take advantage of it by offering various forms of content to your niche audience. A downloadable ebook that informs and educates your audience on something specific is a great way to build relationships, establish yourself as an authority and attract a new audience.

Social Content is in a Category of its Own

Social media is the top Internet activity, according to Business Insider, and it’s not expected to slow down anytime soon. Some of the best social platforms for engagement include Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Snapchat. Each platform is unique in its own way, so it’s important to deliver content that is built for each channel. And with limited characters on some platforms, it’s especially important that each post is well-thought-out.

No longer is social content merely an extension of your company blog. While blogging is still important, social content is in a category of its own. It’s critical that you think about what you want to say, how you want to say it and what audience you’re speaking to. Simply restating what’s already in the blog and using it across all the channels is ineffective.

What this Means for Your Business

So what does all of this mean for your business? Do you need an entirely new content marketing strategy? Probably not. Yet every good digital strategy needs updating from time to time to reflect new marketing trends. In this instance, it’s important to understand how the average person is getting their information, and which pieces of content they are drawn to.

As you make adjustments to your content marketing plan, keep in mind that people are getting pickier with the information they read. You need to have compelling titles that stand out from the crowd if you want your content to get noticed. Once you have a reader’s attention, the rest of the content needs to be well executed. Organize the content in easy-to-digest chunks and include good visuals. Also remember that sometimes visuals are all you need to illustrate a point.

Finally, balance your content as best as possible while staying true to your brand. Some pieces will be better off short and sweet while others won’t be complete unless you make them long and informative. As long as you keep your image consistent, varying up the style and length of your content won’t be a problem.

About the Author: Pete Schauer

Born and raised at the Jersey Shore, Pete Schauer is the Marketing Director at SEMGeeks. He holds a M.A. in Digital Communications from William Paterson University and has 8+ years in the digital space with companies such as Bleacher Report and Social Media Today in addition to SEMGeeks. His background includes creative and professional writing as well as strategic digital marketing communications and management.

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