Friday, October 26, 2018

Got 40 seconds? Good, then do I have part of a column for you!

  

     Forty seconds.
     Not a lot of time. I'll have to work fast. Stick with me.
     Standing in the newsroom Wednesday I did something I don't often do: study one of the big monitors hanging from the ceiling, showing how our stories are doing.  Checking on my Mega Millions column. Top 10; good, good—people love the lottery. Nodding in contentment, I let my eye wander rightward to "engagement time," how long the average reader spends absorbing this finely wrought argument.
     Forty seconds.
     Ouch. You can't read a column a 40 seconds. Most people must bail out. Looking at the other stories, I saw 40 seconds is actually a long time. One had a time of seven seconds.
     You see why. People are on their phones, flicking here and there. They're like my dog, three steps forward—SQUIRREL!—another three steps—SMELLY SPOT ON THE GROUND!
It can take her a while to get anywhere.


     The above can be read in 40 seconds—I just did, auctioneer-style, with a stopwatch. So you distracted folks, you've put in your time. I unclip your leash. For the rest, let's continue. Ripping through the above made me think of a Woody Allen joke: "I took a speed-reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia."
     Doesn't everything nowadays?
     And no, I don't take the 40 second average as an indictment of this little 719-word parcel left on your doorstep three times a week. Don't bother writing to sneeringly claim that if only I'd respect our president more, well then, readers would just sprawl before the column, sipping sweet tea, lingering indolently over what I have to say as shadows lengthen on the veranda.
     Thank you for your valuable input.

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7 comments:

  1. Generally, I end up at the Sun-Times page having read the intro here. Given that, my time on the page of the full column is reduced. Another factor might be that your audience is well-read and therefore processes text faster!

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  2. I read the column in the morning which generally takes nearly 5 minutes what with looking up the meanings of words and doing a little fact checking . then I write a snotty comment , sometimes I send it. I circle back around noon to read other comments . that takes less than a minute. or if there are no new comments maybe 10 seconds . then maybe two or three other times. I've only clicked on EGD and not read the piece once and that was recently. breast milk I believe, anyway the average is brought down by the people who make multiple visits the site in one day

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  3. I read "Oliver Twist" several years ago. I remember that scene, now that you brought it to mind. A Dickensian world is a always a frightening place for a child.

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  4. I read your column every day in the Sun Times, from top to bottom. I don't know how long it takes but it's more than 40 seconds

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  5. Interesting. So be careful how you bait the hook, you only have 40 seconds to get a bite. Sounds about right.

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  6. is that check from harry Caray in the photo?

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