Scanning Everything, Reading Nothing

May 12, 2008 Michael Wurzer

Read/Write Web had an interesting post the other day about reading habits on the web, commenting on an article by usability guru Jakob Nielson:

What Nielson found by analyzing the data in the study was that although people spend more time on pages with more words and more information, they only spend 4.4 seconds more for each additional 100 words. By calculating reading rates, he concluded that when you add more verbiage to a page, people will only read 18% of it. . . .  Nielsen has been interested in how users read on the web for a long time and he has determined that the truth is that people don’t read very much, often scanning text instead of really reading it. His recent eyetracking studies validate this finding, as well.

I found this interesting, especially following my post awhile back on how I use Google Reader. At the time, I read through my feeds one at a time instead of scanning the “all” list in chronological order. Shortly after that post, however, I switched to scanning the all list, simply because I was overwhelmed with the volume.

The upshot of this change is that I only read a very small fraction of what comes through my reader. I really have no idea what sort of filters my brain is applying, but I’m mostly marking “all as read” even when not. A few things have caught my attention recently, such as the discussion on Trulia’s linking and SEO strategies and Doc Searls’ post on user control over data. Otherwise, the feeds pouring into my reader haven’t been penetrating my new, pretty strenuous filter.

Is this because the real estate blogosphere is getting boring or old in its infancy, or has my attention just waned or shifted? I’m not sure but I think I’m not alone.