When The Wall Street Journal was redesigned using color and added the Weekend Journal and Personal Journal, a colleague of mine thought it was going the way of USA Today. That is, to a dumbed-down publication meant to appeal to the broadest demographic. Personally, I thought the design was attractive and layout inviting. My concern was with the quality of content and the length of the written work. That concern has only grown.
In the past fifteen years, information has been beaten, shrunk, diced, and sliced into bite-sized easily digestible trifle. We too readily accept headlines and “top ten lists” as gospel without a proper assessment of facts, logic, and argument. Books are so highly prescriptive that they have only the barest minimum of practical application. Once author credibility was sacrosanct but no longer.
We live in a world of grammatically challenged texts and tweets where millions of blog posts are poorly written and mostly irrelevant. Self-publishing has enabled a mess of thinking rife with typos. On the one hand, we claim this is great, as it has given voice to many. Sadly, the proliferation is just horribly bad.
Democratization of thought is a rich illusion. Technology and social media allows us to share but does not ask the questions, should we? Is the content worthy? Writing and reading are meant to be a challenge, a challenge to both the writer and the reader. Conveying compelling ideas that evoke new emotions and thinking and even prompt behavioral change is the goal.
With this goal in mind it is interesting to learn of a new study from Vervesearch. It shows books are getting longer. According to the study, which looked at 2,500 books from The New York Times best seller list and Google’s annual surveys, average book length has increased by 25%. In 1999 books were 320 pages. In 2014, they averaged 400.
It now seems that people who love to read have a preference to a long and immersive narrative. This is an encouraging development and gives hope for all humankind (I am being only slightly dramatic). Life is complex and denying such is much more than a disservice. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening in marketing. Where marketing once informed in detail and credited consumers with intelligence, it now focuses too much on over simplified entertainment suggesting that consumers are lemmings. Marketing has lost meaning by being so demeaning.
Marketing has lost meaning by being so demeaning.
Longer books signal a critical change. People crave more information. This does not mean longer for the sake of length but it certainly means more substantial. People want to weigh the pros and cons to more accurately satisfy their needs and wants. That means marketers have to fight the instinct to be fleeting and slight. Branding has always been a relationship that marketing is meant to nurture. Longer books are indicator that consumers want relationships with brands to be deep, meaningful and predicated on mutual respect. In other words, they want more.