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Fighting the Distractions of Consuming News on Tablets

An interesting article about e-books and our digital culture was on the front page of the New York Times the other day. “Finding Your Book Interrupted … By the Tablet You Read It On,” read the headline.

The article detailed how people who read e-books are frequently distracted by the other apps that are loaded on their iPads, Kindle Fires and Samsung Galaxys:

E-mail lurks tantalizingly within reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through a quick Google search. And if a book starts to drag, giving up on it to stream a movie over Netflix or scroll through your Twitter feed is only a few taps away.

Well, in my experience, this is not a problem unique to e-books on tablets. It’s a challenge for any news publisher to compete for a reader’s attention on a device with so many other apps that are simultaneously competing for a reader’s attention (and sending push alerts to let the reader know that).

Our attention spans are diminished in the 24-second news cycle we live in. So how can news app publishers keep people in their apps? In my opinion, there are two options: a high-tech route and a low-tech route.

First, the high-tech route. Look at what Wired magazine has done with their iPad app. Their beautiful print magazine is enhanced from cover to cover in tablet form. Infographics become interactive graphics. Pictures become video. There is enough stimulation in the electronic version of this magazine to keep people reading those long articles.

The low-tech route is obviously much simpler one. Better, crisper, shorter writing will certainly keep people attached to their apps for a longer time. While many longform enthusiasts have taken to tablets as their preferred medium to consume those long articles, what about the person who doesn’t have much time? Getting to the point in your writing will stimulate the Twitter set, which can be lost within seconds otherwise.

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