Snackable Content 101: Writing for Skimmers

Lauren Sieben / March 10, 2019

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These days, writers and bloggers alike strive to be creative in order to capture and maintain reader attention.

According to HubSpot, 43 percent of readers admit to only skimming blog posts. But, if you pivot your writing strategy and focus on presenting readers with “snackable content” (posts and articles that are informative, but easily digestible), you’ll successfully reel in readers for the duration of your post.

Why we skim

Part of the blame can be placed on the many screens vying for our attention — from smartphones and TVs, to tablets. Our addiction to these technologies comes at the cost of our ability to hunker down and focus. A 2017 study from The Association for Consumer Research found that the “mere presence of [smartphone] devices reduces available cognitive capacity.”

Consequently, if readers are faced with large blocks of unformatted text when they’re trying to be efficient, or when they’re simply not interested in reading an entire post, they skim, according to research from The Nielsen Norman Group.

Tips for writing snackable content

When you’re writing for skimmers, set your lofty literary ambitions aside. Instead of serving your readers a wordy four-course meal, write content that’s short, sweet, and snackable. The Digital Marketing Institute defines snackable content as, “content that is easy to consume and satisfies your customer’s desire (whether that’s a desire for knowledge, entertainment, or news).”

Follow these tips for writing bite-sized content that is both satisfying and digestible.

1. Don’t bury the lead

In journalism school and in newsrooms, you’ll often hear the phrase: “Don’t bury the lead.”

A lead is the first paragraph of a news article, and its job is to summarize the most important information at the very beginning of a story. If you bury the lead, readers have to dig through the entire article to reach the crux of the story.

The same principle applies when blogging or writing for online publications. If your readers expect a blog post with specific business tips, don’t bury the lead by starting your post with a long story from your childhood. Take a page from the journalism playbook and start every post with a strong lead.

2. Keep it concise

The more you write, the more likely you are to lose readers. Let the old adage “less is more,” guide you.

If writing concise copy doesn’t come naturally, give your first draft a generous word count, and then trim the fat when it’s time to edit.

3. Formatting is your friend

For online audiences, nothing is more daunting than a massive block of text that goes on for miles. Break up distinct ideas into new paragraphs. Use WordPress.com’s visual editor to create, edit, and format content with bulleted or numbered lists, block quotes, bold and italicized fonts, and images (when appropriate).

Subheads also help your readers identify the parts of your post that are the most relevant to them. For example, in this post, you might have already known “Why readers skim,” so perhaps you skipped down to the “Tips for writing snackable content” section. Just like that, you’re munching on a piece of snackable content.

For website owners who want to go even further with their organization, consider using page jumps to separate lengthier, evergreen content such as tutorials or FAQ pages.

Take a reader-first approach

Ultimately, snackable content is reader-friendly content. By keeping your readers’ needs and priorities in mind, you’ll be on your way to writing compelling, well-organized content that they love.

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