Information overload by the numbers

Are your readers drowning in the deluge?

Talk about TMI.

Information overload by the numbers

Too much incoming … Your readers receive the data equivalent of 174 newspapers a day.1 How can your message compete?

Ouch! Nearly eight out of 10 respondents to an NPR survey said they get headaches, insomnia or eye twitches as a result of information overload.2 No wonder “wired” means both “connected to the internet” and “high, frantic, unable to concentrate,” writes UK journalist Johann Hari.3

It’s called multitasking … Add eight hours of work and sleep to information consumption, and that’s nearly 32 hours a day.4 It’s so cute that you think they’re actually reading your release. Best case scenario: They’re looking at the headline while watching “Riverdale”, posting vacation photos to Facebook and asking Alexa to add almond milk to the grocery list.

… and it makes it hard for readers to think. Call it “mental Pez,” says BuzzWhack. That’s “to be hit with so much information that it becomes impossible to focus on one thing, so stuff goes from top-of-mind to tip-of-tongue, only to eventually fall out of our head completely.”

The cost of TMI: Nearly $1 trillion a year. All that time spent with information could be spent on a little something we call doing our jobs. Information handling costs the U.S. economy $997 billion a year.5

What’s a communicator to do? Making every message shorter isn’t the answer.6 Instead, overcome information overload with relevant, interesting, easy-to-read messages. Learn how at Catch Your Readers, my two-day Master Class in May in Denver. Register now.


[1] Richard Alleyne, “Welcome to the information age – 174 newspapers a day,” The Telegraph, Feb. 11, 2011

[2] Manoush Zomorodi, Ariana Tobin and Jen Poyant “Get a Grip On Your Information Overload With ‘Infomagical‘,” NPR’s All Things Considered, January 25, 2016

[3] Johann Hari, “How to survive the age of distraction,” Independent, June 23, 2011

[4] News at USC Marshall, “USC CTM Releases Report on Americans’ Media Consumption,” Oct. 28, 2013

[5]Information Overload Research Group takes aim at data deluge,” news release, Feb. 3, 2011

[6] Martin J. Eppler and Jeanne Mengis, “Preparing Messages for Information Overload Environments” (PDF), IABC Research Foundation, 2009

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