Writer’s Notebook: Commissioning for Attention

The 2009 post Getting Attention was an interesting description of how the Internet was then changing from people visiting sites to receiving a stream of content.

Most people using the web, especially in younger age-​groups, now experience the web as streams, not sites. It might be the stream of updates in Facebook, or their contact’s Flickr photostream, or a string of results on Google, or in an RSS reader.

Getting Attention was about new ways of storytelling designed for the stream – text that could be discovered as fragments and still produce an interesting experience. Content that might be discovered out-of-order or as fragments.

[you should] design content that plays nicely with streams – content that can be interesting and enticing as a one-line text result in a search query, and that doesn’t mind being broken up into small pieces…

In some ways it’s exciting – every piece is its own little launch.

launch the project early, and often. Put out lots of little bits of content over time, and reward people who stick with you. Take the time to listen and work out why people are coming to the project, and more importantly, why they’re not. Make it easy for newcomers to pick up the story at any point, and to view content in any order if they want to.

15 years later, we are very much in that world of streams. Where people once used to visit a large number of sites to look for changes (or follow them with RSS feeds), now they visit a handful of sites which choose what to show them.

I wish I’d done more with writing for the stream back in 2009 when I was first thinking about it. I should have attempted some experiments. But, whenever you think you’ve missed about, it’s important to remember there are other boats still docked that are currently waiting. What will web-native writing look like in 2025?

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