What does Clay Schoenfeld’s rule look like today?
Back in the mid-20th century, academician and communication theorist Clay Schoenfeld recommended the 30-3-30 rule. That is, you should present your message as if one-third of your audience will give you:
- 30 minutes. These folks are readers, and don’t we wish there were more of them!
- 3 minutes. They’re not reading the text. Instead, they’re flipping, skimming and scanning for key ideas. To reach them, you need to lift your ideas off the screen with display copy.
- 30 seconds. With a 30-second attention span, these folks are lookers. They’ll learn whatever they can through an image and a bold headline.
So what does Schoenfeld’s rule look like today? That depends on whom you ask. You may want to follow one of these three rules:
- 10/30/2 rule. According to a study by Microsoft Research, web visitors:
- Decide whether to stay on a page within 10 seconds
- Are likely to stay longer if they make it over the 30-second hump
- At that point, may stay as long as 2 minutes or more
- 10/21/2 rule. According to an analysis of 50,000 page views by a highly educated European audience:
- Most web visitors stay for 10 seconds or less.
- The average amount of time Americans linger on a webpage is 21 seconds.
- About 10% of web views extend beyond 2 minutes.
- 3/10/more rule. According to a 2006 study by University of Hamburg researchers:
- People spend two to three seconds on 25% of the webpages they visit.
- If a webpage passes that 3-second test, web visitors spend about 10 seconds scanning the page.
- Pass the 10-second test, and they may stick around for more.
Write for three audience groups.
The solution? Present each message for:
- Lookers, who may give you 10 seconds. Get these folks’ attention with a sharp headline and large image.
- Skimmers, who may give you 30 seconds. Reach them through display copy: headlines, decks, subheads, links and bold-faced lead-ins, for instance. Pass the skim test.
- Readers, who may give you 2 minutes. These folks may read the paragraphs.
Move readers up the attention ladder.
The good news is, you may be able to move these folks up the ladder of attention. If the 10-second view is interesting enough, you might turn a looker into a skimmer. If the display copy delivers real value, you might turn a skimmer into a reader.
But even if you don’t move visitors up the attention ladder, you need to reach each group where they are. You need to write for all of your readers.