Online Communication Inferior To Print, Research says

Limits on Social Media Communication Effectiveness

Research Shows That Reading On A Screen Is Much Inferior To Reading In Print

One of the problems about how people use social media to communicate is they fail to recognize that each platform has different inherent strengths and weaknesses. They don’t take into account the different reader behaviors that users apply to text on different media, or on different platforms.

In the quest for better communication, you have to understand your audience, PLUS understand the particular media.

We’ll look at three important ways that reading on screens is different from reading print.

Scanning vs. Reading In Depth

Various studies have shown that, compared to print, readers on screens actually read less of the words. They SCAN, and that means that writers need to structure their content so that the key points are salient and obvious.

A key point buried somewhere in the content that is not highlighted, or otherwise made salient will simply be missed by most readers using screens.

Reading Rates Are About Twenty-Five Percent Slower On Screens

Given reading the same content, it takes average readers using screens about 25% LONGER to read the content. So, it’s not an efficient process compared to printed text.

Eye scanning studies have noted that people actually physically read differently on screens, so that’s probably why it takes longer. The screen eye scanning process is probably less effective and efficient.

Comprehension Rates Lower

Again, screen reading suffers. Comprehension rates for text are also lower when reading on text, tying into the notion that “Deep Reading” is not what people do with screen reading.

Some Implications

  • Some material is not suited for screens. Content that is complex, nuanced and subtle, or contains highly emotionalized content is best communicated in print, or, for the latter, in person, face to face.
  • Lack of comprehension and thoroughness explains the gut feeling that often even simple emails are misunderstood, or misinterpreted.
  • The inferiority of reading on screens also explains why comments on social media are so often off the main point of the original content. People aren’t reading it to understand it before responding.
  • Content for online distribution needs to be set up in small paragraphs, with lots of easily scanned headlines, and sub-heads, and with key points made easy to scan via pull quotes and larger fonts.
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