How to Engage Readers

ESTIMATE 2-MINUTE READ

Adults between the ages of 18–34 are now least likely to read.

By Kevin RR Williams

Less People Are Readers

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Do you enjoy reading? It requires a degree of active attention and participation. By contrast, most electronic media often require little more than passive engagement. Literary reading includes any type of novels, short stories, poetry, or drama in any print format, including the Internet. It is declining.

The percentage of adult Americans reading literature has dropped from 56.9% in 1982 to 46% in 2022. Though the population has increased, the number of readers has remained flat at 96 million. Less than half of the adult American population now reads literature.

Over the past 20 years, adults between the ages of 18–34 have declined from being those most likely to read literature to those least likely.

People are buying more books but reading less of them. Perhaps recipients use the excess for gifts or personal library decoration. Data on book reading indicate that Americans read an average of three fewer books in 2021 than they did five years prior.

What This Means for Websites

Across multiple industries, the average time people remain on a web page is 52 seconds. Based on the content, visitors average far less. To extend user attention longer, clearly communicate a value proposition within 10 seconds. Engaging readers on websites also requires better formatting and more visuals to attract attention in a media-rich society.

Young female readers
Teenage females reading in school library.

Outside of work, most people access websites with their smartphones. So make certain what you publish formats well for small devices. Give attention to font size. A three-sentence paragraph on a desktop computer seems small. The same paragraph on a narrow phone, appears lengthy.

Since most people skim, paragraphs should be short and simple to read. Many sites include videos that visitors prefer watching rather than reading. These and audio options are less useful in quiet libraries, in bed with a spouse, or in very noisy environments. Amid the decline, authors are impelled to write something worth reading.

On a website and with newsletters, engage with the audience. Ask what they want to read about. Also view site analytics to determine popular pages. Write more with similar themes, crosslink them, and gain more inbound links. If you look around a bit, the variety on this site will surprise you. What do you enjoy reading?

References
  1. National Endowment for the Arts. arts.gov/sites/default/files/RaRExec.pdf
  2. Americans Reading Fewer Books Than in Past. news.gallup.com/poll/388541/americans-reading-fewer-books-past.aspx
  3. Average Time on Page. klipfolio.com/metrics/marketing/average-time-on-page

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