A Time Problem
Formulating a writing solution
“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” - Duke Ellington
First, I want to again thank the readers of this newsletter for their support and feedback! This is going to be a brief post.
Growing a newsletter on Substack is challenging (along with being fun), and the enthusiasm readers have shown for the material I have written about previously has encouraged this writer to attempt to optimize the reading experience for as many readers as possible.
Second, as a writer, I enjoy exploring topics both in depth and at length. Writing the telegraphic minimum to convey information, no matter how practical, quick, or to the point, is not in my writerly DNA. I personally believe that providing information as “pure facts” without more context often leaves readers with little more than an amalgam of “points.” Summaries can leave out the “finer” details necessary to comprehend a topic. Also, I believe a writer is more than just a reporter of pure facts. I am a devotee, both through academic training and personal preference, of the hated (by high school and college students) essay format, both formal and informal.
Writers rely on various techniques to present information: columnists and newspaper (both traditional and digital) writers use narrative, description, and exposition, focusing on the facts and details of events, their meaning and interpretation, or give analysis, arguments, opinions. Substack has many great writers that cover topics from that form of development; other writers prefer a list or topic based format more suited to quick digital reading; still others write essays because that’s what they like to do. Of course, there are many other forms of writing. None of these methods is inherently superior: each has its own merits, fulfills particular functions, and operates to serve a writer’s purpose.
However, writers should never forget their readers, their audience, their supporters. Writing should also never be tailored to please everybody (as that is an impossibility); nevertheless, readers demand satisfaction in the form of value for the time they invest reading. Readers read to be informed, entertained, or for whatever suits their tastes. But they don’t want to be bored, strained, or overwhelmed. The variable that prevents people from reading even more, especially in our social media driven world, is *TIME* (the ever diminishing resource for us all).
Substack exists for sharp writers with unique points of view, industry specific knowledge, and a great “voice.” Readers want thoughtful analysis and access to top-notch content. Some Substack subscribers will gladly read (or listen to) a 5000 word newsletter by a superb writer, no matter how long it may take. Largely though, that devotion is the exception, not the rule. Time limits (or mental energy) constrain the amount some people are able consume in one reading session. Therein lies the…
Readers have limited time resources.
Since some of the material I cover on problem solving is dense (i.e., there is a lot of information, detail, and explanation necessary to cover the subject), and because some readers profit from a more condensed version of what they read, I have developed the following solution: I am going to perform some A/B testing (not really in the true technical sense) to see which format is read more. For reference, A/B testing basically compares alternative designs. Therefore…
Moving forward, along with the longer form content I publish, I am going to include a group of newsletters titled “Problem Solving Summaries”. These briefer newsletters will quickly summarize new material (and most previous material), and will be in an outline, or list, form (with brief comment) for quick reading and absorption. The TL;DR readers will hopefully find these list-based summaries useful and better suited for quick reference.
Self-referentially, here’s a sample:
Thank you readers for your support and feedback!
Growing Substack newsletter readership is a challenge and depends on being sensitive to reader’s time and energy, requiring optimizing content and presentation
There are many forms of writing: fact-based reporting, argument, analysis, opinion, essays, among dozens more
Since some readers have limited time, summaries in a list-based format often are more easily readable and digestible
A possible solution on my part as a writer is to offer both long form essay content, as well as quick list summaries, to satisfy readers of both types.
Well, that’s it. Problem-Solution (I hope)!
Please comment, give feedback, and share!
Happy Problem Solving!