Do you really read or do you merely consume?


Yesterday, I had a meeting with the ad agency of one of our clients, Readly, which is a subscription based magazine platform – a bit like Spotify, but for magazines – globally available, smart, new and likely to be the future of publishing.

Unlike the other agencies that make up the overall UK marketing team, we here at All about the Idea and the guys at the ad agency specialise in formulating the more creative concepts that communicate the essence of what the client’s product is, with big ideas that engage both the public and the media. So we collaborate; swapping notes, brainstorming and planning together, to ensure that the client is always getting the very best work from all of us.

One point that keeps cropping up is the notion of how people read articles today.

Scan your Facebook or Twitter feed – what do you see? Whether it’s a link to a Buzzfeed post entitled ‘35 politicians that resemble root vegetables’, a Daily Mail Online piece with the latest scandal from the courtrooms, the latest dietary advice in Zest, or an interview with a celebrity A-lister in Glamour, the process is the same: Check this out, click on that – quick signposts to editorial content.

You’ve got 8 seconds of my time to draw me in, then a couple of minutes while I devour the piece in full (if you’re lucky) before I’m gone.

It seems like the early adopters and the new generations of digital babes amongst us are taking the word ‘consumer’ to the very letter. What I mean is, we behave like – to borrow Agent Smith’s analogy in The Matrix – “a virus”, moving from one piece of editorial to the next, nibbling away like Roald Dahl’s insects not just across his giant peach but throughout the rest of the fruit basket too, a little bit here and a soupçon there.

But what happened to reading? I mean proper reading– not just media ‘consumption’.

How do your parents or grandparents read? The process, I bet, is very different. Kettle goes on, cushions plumped, phone off the hook, slippers fetched… time is taken to browse, flick, page surf, to ponder over something, bookmark for future consideration, to enjoy a title from cover to cover.

Somewhere in the evolution of the early Information Age to today’s Digital Social Age, did the art of reading die? Perhaps you disagree with me (you can, it is allowed). But ask yourself this – in which process do you find the most enjoyment; in picking at the contents of a fruit basket, or in savouring the contents of a whole peach?

Jo Furnival is Blog Editor at All about the Idea and, from time to time, lets her imagination run away with her into the realms of obscure metaphor. At other times, she advises clients on their social media communications and the way this weaves throughout a brand’s overall marketing plan.


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