The attention span of the average reader has plummeted to dismally low levels of late.
Just consider how incredibly fast a mediocre internet user can obtain an answer that satisfies, using Google as the go-to-source:
- What is the capital of North Dakota? About 17,300,000 results (0.25 seconds)
- Who makes the best coffee in Albany, NY? About 1,280,000 results (0.37 seconds)
- Who shot J.R.? (how’s that for ageing myself? Gosh!) About 2,890,000 results (0.15 seconds)
Then, look back at that list and just try to swallow the ridiculously high number of information sources at their fingertips in roughly a quarter of a second.
Consider the fact that this same mediocre internet user is on Facebook, constantly filtering, liking, commenting on and stalking upwards of 150 “friends”, each with their own ongoing tidal wave of status updates, Farmville requests and “Which Care Bear Are You?” quizzes.
Add Twitter and all its wannabes to the list, throw in a little Google Reader, maybe a dash of instantly streamable Netflix movies, and finish up by realizing that every single one of these lightning-fast information overloads is strapped to this guy’s belt, coming to him 24/7 via 4G coverage…
Well, it’s easy to understand why you’ve got about three seconds to grab a reader’s attention before they’re on to the next thing.
Three seconds. Or less.
So how do you do it?
Your Headline is All You’ve Got
If you’re writing a blog post, it’s your post title. If you’re writing a print magazine article, it’s the article title and leading head. If you’re writing a book, it’s your cover, title, and subtitle.
Whatever serves as your work’s headline is absolutely the most important single piece of the puzzle if you’re hoping to stand out from the information overload enough to get read.
Direct mail copywriters — you know, those folks who have made billions over the years writing ads, junk mail and other clever means of separating you from your hard-earned money — learned long ago that a solid headline is key to the success of an ad.
In the current attention-deficit world we’re all learning to live in, the headline-improving principles copywriters have been using for years to improve their ads can make all the difference in getting your article, press release, blog post, or book past the three-second mark and into the minds of your target audience.