The Future of Reading Online

Without a doubt, the popularity shift from print to online content has certainly changed the way people consume information. Ebook readership has skyrocketed in the past few years, while popular blogs like Mashable and engadget boast several million unique visitors each month. The digital format is certainly here to stay, so what does this mean for your content marketing efforts? Certain trends are influencing the way people read online, and websites that keep with the trends are likely to attract the largest audiences.

Ebooks will grow even more popular.

While printed books sales have fallen, ebook sales have skyrocketed. According to BookStats, and annual report on the state of the publishing industry, sales for ebooks have risen 45% since 2011. The lower cost of ebooks coupled with their accessibility has contributed a lot to their popularity.
What this means for you: Creating an ebook is inexpensive, and this digital medium is easy to distribute. This makes ebooks an ideal product, whether you want to sell them or give them away. Offering ebooks as an incentive for joining a newsletter list has proven immensely effective. In fact Hubspot says that click-through rates for calls to action promoting ebooks are twice as high as those promoting webinars.

Google will get smarter.

Google has long placed importance on original content that readers find compelling and helpful. The search giant employed Authorank in order to recognize individuals who do an exceptionally good job at creating such content. Google later launched its authorship program, which has been a great tool for authors to use for branding. Although computers use the Authorank algorithm to determine a writer’s influence, there are very human aspects to it. The algorithm uses parameters like the number of followers an author has, and the amount of social proof they accumulate including likes, tweets, and shares. Authorank not only recognizes the website where content is published, but also the authors who create that content.
What is means for you: As Google continues to refine Authorank and Google Authorship, it will become all the more important to produce content that you can be proud to have next to a thumbnail of your picture. Find your individual voice and writing style, and continue to refine your content so that it speaks to your audience. Answer questions, solve problems, and deliver information in your own unique way.

People will continue to skim.

While print text has a definite beginning, middle, and end, readers of online text are more apt to jump from place to place. As Nicholas Carr put it in in his 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words . . . now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” Also worth noting, online readers read on average about 20% of the page, according to a 1997 Nielsen study. This is especially true of on-the-go readers on mobile devices.
What it means for you: It’s very important to make your online content scannable. If your visitors can’t get the gist of what you’re saying within a few seconds, you’ll lose them. The internet is an interactive place where if you can’t find information in one place, you can click away and find it in another. Use subheadings and bullet lists whenever possible. Bold important concepts, and use relevant links. If you have a long, complex topic you want to cover, then you might want to cover it in a series of posts instead of just one.

People will want to customize and share.

At SXSW 2011, renowned web designer Khoi Vinh put forth the idea that customization and sharing was the future of online content. He cited the website Flipboard, which organizes online content from various sources into a well-organized format for you to read. It can also pull Twitter and Facebook content from friends. Another example would be RSS readers like Newsblur and Feedly, which allow you to pick and choose what news sources you want to read.
What this means for you: There is so much information on the web now that content curation (also known as content aggregation) has become a necessity. Readers appreciate when someone takes time out to sift through the chaff to find the worthwhile nuggets. Whether aggregating your own content or content from around the web, this can prove something valuable for your readers.

There will be a greater emphasis on quality.

They say that “content is king,” and that simple phrase has lead to the generation of more content than ever before. And of course, when quantity is the goal, quality suffers. Although experts have touted the benefits and necessity of posting quality content online, not everyone listens. We have all had the experience of reading lackluster and even terrible writing on the internet, content that was most likely created to attract search engines. However, with Google’s increasingly intuitive algorithms and people’s desire to just plain read worthwhile content, there will be a greater emphasis on quality in the future.
What it means for you: Think of ways you can add value to your readers’ lives via information, and follow through. The goal of a website is not to get ranked high in the SERPs, but to be a valuable place on the web. Keeping an editorial calendar can help to guide your content production and keep you focused. Take sufficient time to research and draft blog posts and articles, then edit them until you have something you can be proud of. If writing isn’t your forte, get outside help from a professional that values quality. Above all, don’t let the constant pressure to produce drive you to slap just anything up on your blog.

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Casey Rowland
Casey Rowland | Director of Marketing

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