Chris Brogan, a thought leader I truly admire, sent me an email recently announcing the demise of long-form writing.
This news breaks writers’ hearts everywhere, mine included, but his point is well taken.
I met Brogan in Boston, Massachusetts, a couple of years ago and I’ve had the opportunity to hear him speak more than once. He is a grounded, peaceful guy, who pays a kind of fine attention in conversation, catching nuances and making eye contact. He’s a listener, an observer.
When we met at a digital marketing conference, we discovered a shared study of the work of Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun and principal teacher at Gampo Abbey on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. That gives you an idea of the kind of conversational ground we covered.
Brogan is also a writer. He’s a New York Times bestselling author of nine books and counting. He’s a journalist, speaker and strategist. To make my point, Brogan is the real deal. Thoughtful, articulate, and ethical, he’s been spotting trends in the digital space and providing support and skills to businesses for yonks.
He’s not just telling us long-form is dead to help us sell more widgets. (Well, he is, but that’s not the primary point). He’s telling us that the way we communicate has changed.
In the email he sent, Brogan refers mainly to the way most email newsletters are written. His insights resonated with me because we do a lot of business writing in my company. We coordinate communications and marketing efforts on behalf of our customers and we’re forever brokering down the scope of content.
This is especially true in digital communications, where increasingly we are in a ‘smartphone first’ context.
Here, slightly paraphrased, are the points Brogan asks us to consider:
• people aren’t reading as much, just 19 minutes a day;
• language is shifting, from ‘conversational’ to ‘informal,’ from ‘formerly offensive’ to ‘F-word acceptable,’ from ‘in depth’ to ‘as brief as possible’;
• visuals are more and more core to everyday language;
• brevity, it’s even more brief, like Facebook Messenger brief;
• multi-touch communication across a variety of platforms is more the norm than ‘that one place I know I can reach them’ communication.
Grasping this is important, but only if we truly want to connect and engage with our customers, clients, or readers. Right? Who doesn’t?
In my reply to Brogan, I wrote that I lamented the loss of long-form.
Said Brogan in response, “Understand this: you can choose whatever method to communicate that you want. What you’re no longer allowed is any sense of confusion when it doesn’t land.”
These are wise words, and the interaction prompted me to write a blog post – long-form of course, simply for the pleasure of it. If you have the time, you can read it on vickimcleod.com. If you don’t, here’s the micro-version:
I find out long-form communication is dead. I mourn. My decagenarian neighbour teaches me the value of watching squirrels fly and crimson flowers bloom. Hope prevails.
Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur.
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