Most of Your Constituents Could Get an “F” in Reading

I’ll admit this is a provocative title, but a more “disruptive” one would be, “Who Reads Your School’s Newsletter?”  The answer to that question may be, “Not as many people as you think.”

New articles published on the SchoolAdvancement.com Web site (and my other Web site at http://www.mikeziemski.com) offer a preview photo, a title, a “teaser” portion of the article, and a “continue reading” link.  If, after the first few lines, the reader is interested in reading more, the reader has the ability to do so.  Therefore, if you’re sending your school’s constituents an eNewsletter, article previews should be formatted in the same manner, with the complete articles posted to a news section of your school’s Web site.

Why?

1) By offering a link to the complete article, you can track which articles generate the most interest from your school’s constituent groups; and

2) eNewsletters received by email will be deleted.  By posting the articles to your Web site, they’re always searchable there.

But what about those people who want a paper newsletter?  To be blunt, especially today, they’re a drain on your valuable time and resources.  Complete articles must be written and formatted for the size of the newsletter.  If there were many important items to be shared, but only room for a few, editing was a necessity – to the point that some articles may have had to be omitted.

However, if you still want to provide accommodation for these folks, you could take a cue from an organization I used to work with.  Their articles would be posted to the organization’s Web site, the eNewsletter created, and then the text of the articles would be copied and pasted into a Word document, which would only be provided to the family if they requested it.  The copy could either be picked up in person at the organization’s meeting, or could be mailed to the family if they paid for a “subscription” to the content.

But why would your constituents get an “F” in reading today?  If you’re still publishing “complete article” newsletters, it’s not that your readers are receiving a letter grade in comprehension.  It’s how they’re reading your articles – in the shape of an “F.”  The following comes from David M. Mastovich, MBA, President of MASSolutions, an integrated marketing firm focused on improving the bottom line for clients through creative selling, messaging and PR solutions.  It’s a segment from his publication titled, “Light Reading,” published February 21, 2014:

How do we read today?

We don’t.

Even though you might have found the question interesting, a third of you are already moving on to something else.

Whether reading (or should I say skimming?) online or print, we rarely finish a story or article. And we don’t move smoothly from left to right as we follow the words across the page.

Eye tracking research from web guru Jakob Nielsen shows that we sweep our eyes across the page in a pattern that is shaped like an F, starting in the upper left corner. We tend to take two horizontal swipes across the page, then swipe vertically down the left.

Uh oh. We are now past the point (around 100 words) where more than half the original readers are gone. Wish you were here.

David can be reached at dave@massolutions.biz, and you can find MASSolutions on the Web at http://www.massolutions.biz.  You can subscribe to his Light Reading articles there, too.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2014 (Original Publication Date: 20140623)