Are you catering for skim readers?

Did you know that, according to eye-tracking studies, few individuals read emails from beginning to end? The average person will spend 10 seconds reading an email.

A study by NNG showed the following statistics about readers of digital newsletters:

  • 74% of the time, people skim newsletters
  • 24% of newsletters are read through to the end.
  • 2% of the time, people glanced but didn't read.

Reader's attention tends to flit about a lot in an effort to take in information as quickly as possible. Your reader will decide in a matter of seconds whether to give your content a chance or go on. How frequently that choice is made in your favor depends on how strong your directional cues are.

You will have readers that only skim your content, looking for things that stand out to them, no matter how well you create your newsletter. We put this article together to help you understand how your subscribers consume your content and how you can best cater for today’s skim readers.

How to structure your content

Knowing how your skim readers think will help you create your email newsletter in a way that will effectively catch their attention. After all, you don't want people with limited attention spans to miss your main points.

This is how you can capture them.

1. Have a striking headline

Your headline is the one thing that all your readers will certainly see and read. It is therefore worth it to invest your time into deciding a few things about your headline. For example, decide what your value proposition is. Why should your readers care to invest their time in reading your newsletter? Perhaps your headline can promise your readers to learn something or gain something they didn’t have before.

This is what can help your readers to decide if they’d like to read your newsletter or not.

2. Organise your content into smaller chunks

Most of your readers will find a single large block of text to be overwhelming. It will look a lot better and be more appealing to skim over your paragraphs if they are broken up into smaller sections.

Consider these rules when determining how to divide up your content:

  • Each piece of content should only address one idea or item.
  • Use headlines per piece of content.
  • Include an image with each piece of content.

3. Bolden key phrases

Use selective bolding of keywords to help your skimming reader identify the most important information inside paragraph text.

Be careful not to overdo it, though. Bolding is intended to be read quickly, so if you bold entire sentences or worse still, full paragraphs, you're basically defeating the purpose. Only bold words that are important to your message.

4. Consider your copy’s design

Consider the copy's design and layout. The appearance of the words themselves will help in readability and understanding, from font size to line height.

The font you use is quite important because it is much easier to skip over text that is more complicated in design. A crowded paragraph of text is difficult to read, thus word spacing is also important. Take note of how far your headings, body text and bullet points are separated from one another. Your readers will stay engaged if you choose the right spacing.

5. Use great images

If you can communicate something visually instead of using words, do so. Images are useful to skimming readers since they convey information quickly. Additionally, they provide the text with "breathing space," which is necessary for guiding readers through lengthy information. So, invest in good photos.

6. Make it mobile-friendly

It's likely that more people are viewing your emails on their phones. Check to see if your emails are responsive. Also, consider how your emails will look in the very popular dark mode.

Skim readers will continue to exist. No matter what you do, people will skim your content because it's just human nature to do so. However, by using the strategies we've just discussed, you can cater to readers who only skim your content and ensure that your point is understood.


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