The technology industry has recently made a concerted move away from depth. Long posts are shunned, brevity is lauded, and “short” has been applauded for its clarity of voice and easy digestibility. The most notable purveyor of this mindset is Seth Godin, the professor of pointedness.
Godin’s posts rarely take more than one minute to read. They inform and entertain, and contain great insights into the world of work, and more specifically, marketing.
Godin has a distaste for the “list” mentality of many blog posts today. Many of these lists are “car accidents”, as Godin describes, and are more a traffic draw than an actual creation of value:
I know that if I want a blog post that’s gonna outperform all my other blogposts what I need to do is follow a simple formula. The formula is ten ways you can blank. Probably including the word traffic. And then among the ten ways I should mention Apple, Ron Paul, and talk about the distinction between men and women or black people and white people or tall people and short people, something. And then I should start a firestorm in a fight and then stand back. And my blog was to go like this. I just gave you the map. And it’s worthless because once everyone does it won’t get you any traffic and, by the way, the traffic it gets you, worthless. Because those people are looking for car accidents. They’re not looking to exchange value.
I totally agree with him on this point – lists are generally fluffed to hit certain number draws (5, 10, 15, 25, 50), and are rarely birthed from an innovative idea – they are almost all created from a desire to draw eyeballs.
However, I think there’s an inherent irony in Godin’s statement – because his blog posts, styled as they are, do the exact same thing. They create “car crashes” more than they create any real value.
Don’t get me wrong – the posts themselves are packed full with actionable insights that can change lives and grow businesses. But in the way they are presented, Godin’s posts take on the exact identity of the lists he so distastes.
Short, Pointed, Forgettable
We are an ADHD society. If I wasn’t clinically prescribed with it, the internet created it. Twitter on TweetDeck. Digsby intertwining every chat client I can fathom. Three windows open on two screens. Because of this, we love the list mentality. Similarly, we love the Godin mentality – because it is his quick posts that exactly emulate the 1. 2. 3. structure of list posts, without the numbers.
Godin’s posts are car crashes, too, because of the temperament of our online education. We read. Read. Read. 700 posts on our RSS feed, and we’ve got to read them all. We read, and that’s all we do. We don’t take notes, we don’t repeat the concepts, and we don’t take action to implement.
Yes, higher education is broken — but online education never got built. We have created a standard of one style of learning – reading – and because of that, the positive tenants of the, better, more organized education system are lost.
If you took a notepad and a highlighter to every one of Seth Godin’s posts, he would transform you. If instead of just reading it once, saying “Yeah that’s true! Cool point, I was entertained”, you printed his concepts, used a highlighter, took notes, and tested yourself on the information – your business life would be absolutely and completely transformed.
But you don’t.
SOMEONE out there must do this, but I don’t know of a singular one. Our online education is like a digestive system – we eat, enjoy, and before we know it, the concepts are gone out the other end.
If you’re lucky, you use the concept once during the day, it works, and that success pushes towards a second implementation that creates retention. However, if you don’t have a immediate, practical application of a Seth Godin post, and only use your read-and-on-to-the-next-one mentality, you will almost certainly forget the great information before the next sun rises.
The Responsibility of Content Creators
I’m not ignorant enough to believe that my one post on the subject will spurn a movement towards refined online education. It won’t. But I do believe that maybe one or two people can read this and see the inherent dilemmas within the short blog post, and how we can more positively towards something better – the middle.
Long posts are still that – most likely excessive, a probable exasperation on a concept that, practically, probably isn’t that complicated. It’s too much. But the short post is often too little, even if it properly encapsulates a point.
By offering more examples, supplying breadth, and offering some comprehensiveness to our short blog posts, we supply the potential for retention. Blog readers won’t become more refined, until some smoother, more efficient learning tools are created online to help move along that process. By offering the “push” towards retention as little as 200 extra words create, we supply real potential for preservation. Although this doesn’t apply for sales content, is does for blog posts. Ironically, having as little content as possible – for example, on this VA Streamline Refinance site – we actually improve conversion.
As a blog writer and a person who wants to create value and potentially have one or two or six ideas of mine used positively in another person’s life, I see the necessity of the medium length post. We can maintain reader retention with 200 extra words – we just have to think a little harder to make the post as good at the 1000th word as it was at 500.