communications and content > Blog > Uncategorised > In praise of brevity
  • David Butcher
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Ever wondered how long it takes to read something?

If so, then this page is for you. This blog will take about 1 minute and 29 seconds of your time. 

If not, please read on – because our 2020 Readability Report shows that most of the content published by investment management businesses is too long for the time people have available to read it. 

In an industry designed to manage people’s expectations – “you may not get your money back” – this lack of attention to a reader’s needs is a curious and ironic omission. 

Aggregated analysis tends to agree that

·      an average reader can get through 200 words per minute, with 60% comprehension

·      a good reader reads 300 wpm, at 80% comprehension

·       and accomplished readers read 700 wpm, with 85% comprehension. 

Let’s assume investment content readers are ‘good’ readers. They’re smart people – but they’re tired. They’re busy. Probably stressed. There’s a pandemic on. They’re overwhelmed with content. 

If you’ve ever wondered why the national and investment trade media remains popular

it’s partly because their articles are shorter. They average 735 words – a two-and-a-half minute read. 

Our research shows that the average investment content article is 1,825 words long – which is a six-minute read for good readers.

There’s more. A massive study of American reading habits recently showed that graduates and post graduates spend about 25 minutes daily reading and 12 minutes thinking. Adults aged 45-54 devote about 15 minutes apiece. 

If this is a proxy for investment content readers, they’re spending about 15 to 20 minutes reading a day. They can probably consume two to four of your and your competitor’s articles in this time. Unless they’re reading other things, like newspapers or economic reports. Or books. 

If you think this data is compelling enough to act on, here are three tips:

·      Manage reader expectations. Calculate how long an article takes to read and state this period of time under the article’s heading. 

·      Consider the time people spend reading. Think about how your piece sits within it. Is it reasonable to ask clients to spend their daily reading allocation on a ground breaking report that gets to the heart of their problems? Is it just as reasonable to send them 1,825 words on last month’s market movements? 

·      Above all: Challenge your colleagues – your subject matter experts – to say what they want to say using half the words. 

There’s a lot more where this came from – including all the sources – in our 2020 Readability Report. It’s a handy bit of independent research that helps colleagues get comfortable with brevity AND readability. Please get in touch if you’d like a copy – or a conversation about it.

Thanks for reading.

Picture credit: Engin Akyurt.

Author: David Butcher

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