Blogs and the Marketer's Quest for Brevity

This past weekend I went out to a local antique market to find a gentleman selling hundreds of old advertisements from magazines over the last 60 years, framed and mounted.  I bought one for a Hartmann Wardrobe Trunk … a great illustrated ad with more than a paragraph of descriptive copy.  In fact, all the old ads had lots of descriptive copy.  Contrast this with the recent Webby Awards, where each winner had to give a five word acceptance speech.  I don’t discount this element (and media hook) that makes the Webby Awards such a unique experience – but what does this say about the average consumer today?

Is it even possible to get a target audience to read more than a few words of marketing copy?  Email subject lines (typically 8 words or less) can determine whether an email is read or discarded immediately.  The basic fact is, people scan more than they read online — a fact noted many times by Jacob Nielson in his guidelines to writing on the web.  In our culture, time is at a premium so no one has time to read anymore.  To get messages through, marketers have to be invasive.  It’s the situation that Seth Godin points to for the rise of "interruption marketing."

But then, there are blogs.  They are on screen, nonlinear, use creative grammar, and can be of varying length (ok, most are pretty short).  They are being read, subscribed to, and actively searched.  People spend hours of their valuable time each day reading them.  Blogs are not usually soundbites, but can offer some of the most compelling marketing messages out there.  On a print ad or Canon’s website, I may not take the time to read a long description of their latest digital camera.  But on a blog or RSS feed from a credible site like http://www.dpreview.com/news, I’d read (and print) a full 10 page review. 

Brevity is not the soul of blogs as it has become for other communications mediums.  A blog that is credible and relevant will make it through online information filters and connect with a target user, irrespective of length.  And that certainly reverses the trend in marketing copy over the past 50 years.

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