Communicating online — not your father’s print

Once upon a time, the morning newspaper was our first and most detailed means of consuming the days news. We killed trees to keep on top of local and world news. When we were done, we shoved the yellowing, fraying results into the bottom of the bird cage. We didn’t call it recycling back then.

Today, breaking news no longer comes on paper. Sure, many of us still subscribe to our local rag. It lays out nicely on the kitchen table, and you can’t take a laptop to the beach. Not safely, anyway. Convenience aside, rapidly delivered interactive online media have changed the way we consume content. They’ve also changed the way we communicate. The impact extends far beyond the breakfast table. It changes the way we work, making the modern office a very alien place to people rooted in paper-based memos and, gasp, fax machines.

Whether we’re sending an e-mail to a colleague across the hall, preparing a PowerPoint presentation for company leadership or designing in-store signs for the next sales campaign, we can’t forget the one overriding truth: the Internet has fundamentally changed how we interact with others, and how we absorb and respond to messages.

But what to do about this. Start by knowing which way is up in this chaotically evolving world. Writing for online consumption is a necessarily different process than writing for print. Readers have ever-shorter attention spans. They scroll through a page and hover the mouse pointer over a selection of text, fingers to click on whatever link next tickles their fancy. They don’t have time to read War and Peace. They may not even make it to the War part. Be quick, be decisive, and get to the point. Now.

Speaking of which, we’ll leave the rest for the next entry. We said to keep it short, and that applies to us as well. And we’ll continue the story tomorrow.

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