A Bold Prediction
Making eBooks "The Next Big Thing"

The Evolution of Content Consumption

Basset reading Eric Shanfelt's article in the latest issue of Publishing Executive magazine is called Publishing in a Fragmented Online World.  Here's the excerpt that got me thinking:

How can we get our content to our readers however they want to get it?  Does a reader want to get our latest content by visiting our web site?

These questions are intertwined and I'd argue the answer to the second one is "no."  Are you familiar with that saying that, "the best camera is the one that's with you"?  The same logic applies to reading.  A book is great, my Kindle is nice but my iPhone is always with me so the bulk of my content consumption happens via that small screen.

Here are some of the more noteworthy ways my reading habits have changed over the last few years:

iPhone, not the Kindle.  OK, I prefer to read a lengthy book on my Kindle, but that's about it.  A year ago I liked the Kindle for newspapers.  But then the NY Times offered the same content via a free app, so I dumped the Kindle subscription.  I've been paying for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on my Kindle but I'm about to cancel that one too now that I can get it for free via another app.  So the Kindle has quickly become a long form content-only option for me now.

Apps, not browser access.  And since I'm consuming more and more content on my iPhone, this has become a critical distinction.  It's also why I say "no" is the answer to Shanfelt's second question.  To me, the iPhone Safari browser is for emergency use only.  I don't want to access your website that way even if you've "optimized it for mobile access."  A well-designed app is always going to offer UI touches you just won't find in a mobile UI view of your website.  I'm much more likely to access your content if it's available as an ap than I am if I have to use my browser.  There's a reason the phrase, "there's an app for that," is so darned popular!

Far less RSS.  My RSS reader used to be my first and last stop of the day.  Now I rarely use it.

Short form, not long form.  I'm an info-snacking addict.  The Kindle enables it but the iPhone perfects the experience.

More Twitter, less blogs.  18 months ago I was a non-believer in the Twitter revolution.  Now I use it throughout the day.  It has its flaws and one day something will replace it, but it's a nice solution for now.  The time I used to spend reading (and writing) blogs has shifted to Twitter.  I find myself less attracted to the long form writing in blogs and more to the short bursts of Twitter.  FWIW, I used to write 4-6 posts for this blog every week and now I typically only write one, but I also write anywhere from 3-10 or more tweets per day.  Despite that, traffic continues to grow modestly and nobody has complained so it seems like the right approach.

Have you seen similar trends with your reading habits?  Different trends?  No change whatsoever? :-)


Michael A. Banks

I'm still reading lots of harcopy books. Fewer magazines. I've been playing with Kindle PC.


Like you, Joe, I'm doing more tweeting and less blogging—and reading fewer blog posts. And I hear the same from lots of my editor colleagues.

Kent Anderson

I think this is generally right, but it also seems to hint at shifts instead of fragmentation. I think fragmentation is going to continue, and hasn't reached its plateau. The idea of short-form being preferred is a good example of this. Yes, for some modes of information consumption, but for commutes, exercise, train trips, and airplane flights, long-form content is still preferred, be it podcasts, books, or playlists. As to modes, Twitter is great because it provides a quick discovery mode, but I usually find long-form content on the other side, be it a long video from TED or a long blog post. So, let's not oversimplify. Things are going to continue to be fragmented and complex, IMHO.

Kimberly Davis

I still like having all of my blogs and magazine reading together in one place, on my Kindle, and updated without my having to think about it. But you are right, I have my iPhone with me more often, and end up defaulting to that on a regular basis. And I agree that twitter has changed blogging. Now I do my short form blogging on Twitter, and my blog posts on Kim's Craft Blog (about writing) tend to be longer and more in depth--and less frequent.

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