Does Anyone Read Copy Anymore? Sydney Digital Gurus Karla Courtney & Josh Bryer on the Big Debate
"It's an art man's world now. It's a delicately framed up world of pixels and brushes and CMYKs. In this world, there's no space left for headlines. No space for sub heads. And certainly no space for writers. The man with the biggest library of vectors wins. And the man with a few words loses out. Where then do these short, crisp and toasted headlines go? To the bin, or to the grave or to hell? Or, is there hope still? A place where headlines are not just written. Not just read. Not just underlined. But celebrated. So, writers of the word, keepers of the copy book and guardians of garamond, put headline here." – Put Headline Here community.
Something struck a chord close to home when I stumbled across the above on Put Headline Here’s Facebook page – a group that celebrates the wise old art of copywriting. On that note, I thought it best to check in with the experts around town to ask: Does Anyone Read Copy Online Anymore? Here’s what they had to say.
Karla Courtney, Digital Strategy Director at Medium Rare Content Agency
Before writing this I spent around 10 minutes looking at lists of the top #DressGate2015 memes. This involved no intellectual effort and I remember nothing. But I had a quick laugh and that's really all I needed.
Listicals, infographics, images, memes, and internet-breaking arguments about dresses are a primary way we consume content. This content is highly sharable, engaging and funny and allows people to get some quick-fix screen-time on the go.
But not everything can be a BuzzFeed list or a GIF of a cat running into a window. Given the time, there is an audience of people who need more information; there are people who still do crave, or even need, in-depth content and they do read it. Medium.com wouldn't exist if people didn't read copy. Nor would the New Yorker or Fast Company - just to name a few of some of the other most successful and progressive content brands today.
From the perspective of a brand as a publisher, quality long-form content is crucial when we consider perceptions of value in relationship to loyalty. Many large brands have dedicated content plans to foster loyalty, rewarding members with a free magazine (digital or print) or a member-only EDM/website. If you are giving me something "free" that actually does have a cost, I expect it to read like it has a cost, not a one-line joke about a confusing dress I can read on Twitter anyways. And if I feel like I am getting something high quality and cool that I can't get anywhere else, I will have a higher propensity to read it.
From the perspective of authority, *some* content has to mean something and be done in detail for most other forms of content to exist. Infographics and listicals, in particular, are actually referencing something else. You take away that other thing and we are left with an Internet full of funny cats (which, I will be honest, would be pretty awesome for a short amount of time). Long-form reports, reviews, and features do still exist - and the people who need or want them do read them.
Does everyone read the copy? Of course not. But not everyone is after, or needs, the same thing.
Different types of content suit different needs - from both the perspective of the reader and the publisher - and long-form content gives the value and authority for those who need it.
Josh Bryer, Senior Digital Copywriter at M&C Saatchi
Tweets are made up of 140 emoticons. Facebook posts are just pictures. So are memes. Blogs are dead. Websites are filled with photos. And search engines look for them.
No one reads copy anymore.
Yes, the statement that’s never made any sense now makes less sense than ever.
Digital marketing is participative. It relies on a conversation between marketers and consumers. And people don’t hold conversations in images. Without words, Twitter would be twaddle. Facebook would be a picture book. And memes wouldn’t mean a thing. (It’s Grumpy Cat’s comments that make him so LOL.)
Plus, there’s more clutter online than in any magazine or TV channel. Copy now has to be even smarter, and sharper, if our brands are going to get liked, be retweeted, or index near the top of a user’s Google search. And with blogs, where frequent updates are expected, it’s a case of both quality and quantity.
No one reads copy anymore.
Writers work for free. Designers work alone. And if you’re a wordsmith, you’d better have a bar job.
Yet here you are, online, reading an article.