People Do Not Read AnymorePeople do not read anymore; they only scan headlines

Proof that people do not read anymore really came home to me with a recent article I wrote about grammar. My title was tongue in cheek, ironic, and pointing to a common problem encountered almost daily on the Internet.

I was pleased with my article, which was titled, Writters Who Should Of Done A Grammar Check, because it raised a number of common errors made all too often by writers, but boy, did the grammar police have fun criticising my grammar in the title.

The problem of course, was that obviously they read no further than the title before they decided to bombard me with Twitter messages and comments pointing out that I had made a huge grammatical error in my post’s title.

Well, duh!

Clearly the grammar police don’t bother reading before attacking.

Oddly enough, they all, without exception, criticised my use of ‘should of’ instead of ‘should have’, but failed to notice that I had intentionally spelt writers incorrectly.

So much for their attention to detail!

However, the problem extends further than my little post.

The Mail Online clearly understood some time ago that people do not read anymore. So much so that they break every search engine rule, which limits titles to sixty characters, by writing titles that give the whole story in the headline, to use people do not read anymore to their own advantage.

By doing this, The Mail Online has become one of the most highly trafficked sites on the Internet. Why? Because people can share, Like or retweet without the bother of having to go to the effort of actually reading the story.

Take one totally inane story from The Mail Online; I found.

See the pictures of Prince Charles in bright yellow swimming trunks and Camilla in a swimsuit broadcast to millions of Australians that you WON’T see them in any British newspaper.

People Do Not Read Anymore 1 People Do Not Read Anymore 2 People Do Not Read Anymore 3

Really, there’s no need to read the story at all, is there?

One headline, a few dumb pics, no story at all, and people will share it like crazy.

I could replace Charles and Camilla with a cute dog story, and have the same sharing success.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like to read an article, story or even a Tweet before I decide to share it with my followers and friends. But because people do not read anymore, I am probably in the minority.

I can, want to, and do read.

People Do Not Read Anymore

8 thoughts on “People Do Not Read Anymore

  • 15/11/2015 at 10:51 am
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    I have to admit it’s been a long time since I read a newspaper. I didn’t stop because I didn’t enjoy reading them, I stopped because I realised that two days later, I could barely remember half the details I’d read anyway! The headlines are pretty much all that we (or at least I!) remember.

    Anyway, back on topic: While it’s true that no one reads beyond the headline any more, not all online media includes the whole story in the headline. The other approach is to include virtually nothing at all – so-called clickbait. The example you give above, for example, might have been:

    “Three new pics of Charles and Camilla, and you won’t BELIEVE what they’re wearing!”

    Personally, I hate clickbait. (Well, unless I’m very much mistaken, everyone hates clickbait!) The only good thing you can say about it, is that it shows that the problem of people not reading beyond headlines has at least been recognised, and that others are doing their damnedest to find new ways to trick people into reading their material. I wonder if the grammar police would have read further into your article if it had been titled something like:

    “15 Grammar Goofs YOU’RE making right now, without even knowing it!”

    It’s a sad truth, but you’re right. People do not read beyond headlines, especially online. I fear we just have to accept the new reality and adapt. I’m not sure how, but we need to. Clickbait seems to be the preferred answer for now, but I’m sure that’s only a temporary fix. The articles they tend to link to seldom live up to the headlines’ hyperbole and, the more we come to recognise that, the more we’ll tune them out. There are parallels, I think, with the way we already now fast-forward through adverts on tv, or click to another news channel if the one we’re watching starts to cover an item we’re not interested in.

    One thing’s for sure. The answer might be unclear, but it’s badly needed!

  • 16/11/2015 at 8:33 am
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    I’m with you on this one Derek. How long will it be before actually reading something in its entirety becomes a thing of the past?

  • 28/12/2015 at 9:56 am
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    I very much doubt that those actually interested in grammar criticised your article. The comments were more likely to be from those who simply think they know something of the subject and, as you suggest, read no further than the title. But those of us who care about the use of language are, by nature, readers, and unlikely to judge from a title alone, and very likely to spot glaring spelling errors.
    But I agree with your premise; that people in general no longer read the meat of an article. And I agree that much of this lack of concentration and attention can be fairly placed on technology. How we undo that damage, and how we persuade young people of the value of reading in depth is the real issue, of course. I wish I had an answer!

  • 28/12/2015 at 11:41 pm
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    Nowhere is this more obvious than here in the US! It saddens and sickens me that so many people are repeating what they see & hear on FOX News despite the fact that they KNOW FOX lies! They KNOW they are classified as Entertainment just SO they can lie!
    I don’t know how many of these people there really are, but it’s enough to make me glad we do NOT have a Parliamentary government! I can’t figure out for the life of me this fascination with an idiot, lying piece of racist crap that shows his stupidity every minute of every day! The only thing I can think of is that this guy keeps us from thinking about the real issues here: poverty, education, homelessness & our jobs going overseas.
    Anyway, I am happy that there ARE still people who read AND write! I am happy to know that if need be, I could find a place on this east that is NOT filled with idiots!
    All the best to you,
    Sherrie

  • 05/11/2016 at 3:08 pm
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    Really, would you go on to read a story whose headline is so poorly written? Satire is difficult to identify in an environment where poor writing is standard. I daresay you’ve missed some yourself.

  • 24/04/2017 at 2:33 pm
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    Sorry to feel this way, but this problem is here to stay. It may worsen, in fact. The main reason appears to be faster paced lives, shorter attention spans of readers/learners, and the new generation growing up in an environment already using the latest knowledge imparting techniques via the audio visual media and online access. (Which in turn explains the popularity of You Tube.)

    I found my own shortening concentration span leading me to reducing my (print) newspaper subscription from two dailies and three Sunday editions to an absolute zero. My newspapers would lie unread, bundles at a time. I simply was compelled to stop buying them.

    The news alerts in your mail inbox give enough leads to help you choose just the few items that interest you, and you can access these in your favorite paper’s online edition. And yes, the really good writers have adapted methods of concise expression, which is the only way to hold a reader’s attention.

    But – just as J.K. Rowling is credited with bringing back a whole new generation of AV addicts back to reading books with the Harry Potter series, it seems it’s time for another such renaissance, if only for the survival of the wonderful art and skill of crafting magical sentences, writing unputdownable stories, and having the audience to relish these.

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