Part Two: Content Matters
“They’re dumbing me down!” – A recent comment by a 17 year-old friend lamenting the emptiness of her current educational experience.
Is our current diet of frequently random, fragmented, contextually divergent information and opinion making us dumber? Feels that way sometimes. Cocooned as we are in an innervating wrapper of digital data, we continuously bombard our senses with a fire hose of email chatter, instant messaging, rapid-fire texts, heavily parsed tweets, and on-demand streams of music and video. Taken together, these require an almost masochistic embrace of the consciousness of continuous interruption. Mind full vs. mindful. And all this while current research clearly calls out multi-tasking as the ultimate productivity killer.
What’s the point? Fortunately, this is one of those trouble spots where the problem points directly to the solution. Once we get past our attachment to the feeling that we’re somehow being heroic juggling all that flying digital debris, it’s really not so difficult to begin consciously opting for coherence over fragmentation; substance over superficiality; meaning over nonsense. Absorption is, in fact, what we’re built for. If you doubt this, remember how you learned just about everything you know. So, how can we as digital writers and creatives help help encourage and promote a return to meaningful immersion in the online space?
Flow. The idea of flow has been talked about for years. You know the feeling. Being so deep into that focused groove that time slips away, work feels effortless—the mind/brain working in lock step. The ability to absorb and process knowledge (not just information) seems limitless. Flow is a higher order of mental engagement that can be invoked in the digital realm.
One method for beckoning flow is best summed up this way: Tell me a story. Humans love a good story. We enjoy being led; following a sequence to a satisfying, hopefully illuminating conclusion. We revel in learning something new. Think of content as experience. Time spent off the beaten track. Sacred time. And what’s this have to do with selling spatulas? Or sports cars? Or package tours to Tierra del Fuego? Find that connection to the deeper human story and you will up your impact, no matter what you’re peddling.
Online, storytelling can take two distinct forms.
- The Through Line. Overtly guiding readers through a planned, sequential experience designed to build interest, transfer knowledge, and drive towards a meaningful destination (and action/response).
- The Jeweler. Alternately, a story can be shared and consumed free of a pre-determined sequence—this is more akin to a faceted approach where the reader acquires the story the way a jeweler examines a diamond—by viewing it from a range of differing angles all unified around a central thematic core. This approach calls for very tight creative collaboration between the writer and the interaction designer to ensure the reader’s success in navigating the narrative.
Poetry and Passion. Alliteration aside, these really do go together. Poetry implies an elevated use of language—thoughtful, evocative, provocative, and concise. I will be the first to admit that my stylistic penchant does not align well with this last element. So be it. If you’ve read this far you probably don’t care. That said, poetry is language within which powerful meaning is organically embedded. As a form of communication it stands wholly apart from the “informational.” As far as I am concerned, all good copywriting is poetry — meaning and emotion encoded to sooner or later explode like a flower into full bloom within the reader’s mind.
The essential need for passion should go without saying. Surprisingly, though, passion is too frequently absent when it comes to content developed for the digital space. The tendency towards informational overload has all but obscured the central question that must be persuasively answered every time you open a channel of online communication: And I should care about this why? Why indeed. If you’re not passionate about what your expressing it’s a lock that no one else will be. In other words: You lost me at who gives a damn.
And you just don’t want to go there because that is truly the place where no one reads anymore.