Chances Are You Won’t Finish This Article

According to new data from Chartbeat, online articles rarely get read in full. But that doesn’t stop people from tweeting them.

Chances Are You Won’t Finish This Article

No one expects you to read the entire Internet every day, start to finish. That’s where Twitter helps: it’s a cursory but totally comprehensive rundown on all the online content out there.

Actually (and sadly), the facts don’t back that up. According to data collected by Josh Schwartz, a data scientist at Chartbeat, and outlined by Slate’s Farhad Manjoo (also a Fast Company contributor), a paltry number of readers finish online articles. A graph that pairs article length with number of viewers looks roughly like a bell curve: Most page visitors will read half of the given story before the numbers start to gradually fall off.

According to Manjoo: “When people land on a story, they very rarely make it all the way down the page. A lot of people don’t even make it halfway. Even more dispiriting is the relationship between scrolling and sharing.” He goes on: “Both at Slate and across the Web, articles that get a lot of tweets don’t necessarily get read very deeply. Articles that get read deeply aren’t necessarily generating a lot of tweets.”

The analysis also hints at how page design can play a role in persuading readers to stick around a little longer. On average, two-thirds of time spent on a page happens below the initial scroll window. Schwarz found that for Slate, that number is higher, at 86.2%. It’s likely attributed to Slate’s page format, which delivers only a modicum of text at the outset, then the goods below the fold. Unfortunately, for publishers and devoted writers everywhere, that still means readers are only engaged for a few paragraphs.

Read the whole story (or just some of it) over at Slate.

[Images: Gilbert Stuart via Wikipedia, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze via Flickr]

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.