Context transforms content. It’s not that people like reading at a computer, though many have more opportunities to do so in the modern workplace. It’s that writing and reading under new conditions transforms that writing. In the case of the web, which is driven as much by pleasure as by technology (as is everything), the new writing may be more pleasurable because it’s more efficient: Michael Kinsley for The Atlantic:
One reason seekers of news are abandoning print newspapers for the Internet has nothing directly to do with technology. It’s that newspaper articles are too long.
I often forward news articles to friends and colleagues. Very seldom do I include the first sentence. More often than not I quote a paragraph halfway through or even the closer. Quite often I quote someone who is in turn being quoted by the author. Kinsley pinpoints the failures in the original prose that prompt me – and doubtless many others – to thus compensate with our edits. (That the above quote is the opening sentence testifies to the author’s clarity on the matter.)
my friend KF responds:
I disagree that length itself is the problem, and in the end Kinsely’s argument seems less about length and more about bad journalism. Not too many words but the wrong words. If I am fascinated by a topic I will read a very long article about it–as I just did read The Atlantic’s story about “The Science of Success” –online. And when I email a passage from the middle of a story to others it is because it is that particular passage felt powerful to me, and I think it might to the person I am emailing as well, but others might find different passages hit them over the head. What seems to one person like the most essential point, might not be to someone else…
All very good points. But i wonder just how many possible pull quotes an article has. And the web is like reading one pull quote after another.
Who selects those pull quotes is interesting. It’s only sort of me in that I select other, better readers – or “quote pullers” – to follow. When I do eventually read some longer stories I do so thanks to their very pointed introductions. It’s that kind of introduction that Kinsley brings up as essential for news and too late or too subtle in some stories.
Maybe his wording was not the best: it’s not that they’re too long but that they take too long to get to their premise?