Being ‘above the fold’ and why our audiences are just like us

A couple of weeks ago, I sat down to a colleague to chat press releases. The idea was to make sure I was structuring them correctly, that the right information was in the right places and to make sure that I was, well, toning down my personality a couple of notches in them.

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During this chat, my colleague mentioned about having all of the key information, a brief who, what, why, when, where and how as well as a link to the client or whoever “above the fold”.

This made complete sense but having never heard the term before, I argued playfully with her until she felt the need to Google it and actually prove me wrong (oh and it came up a couple of lectures later, the nerd in me texted said colleague excitedly!).

Her desperate pleas to get me to believe her and the Google results informed me that the phrase is a throwback to when people got their news stories from things called newspapers (?) – where all of the vital information had to go above the physical fold of the paper to ensure the likelihood of it being consumed. Again, making complete sense.

Ensuring that all the important bits are early on means we can accomodate all sorts of readers – those who scan, skim or squeeze out every word are all catered for. Getting to the point is quick and easy helping us to appease our journalistic frenemies.

And as communications practitioners, we need to remember our audiences. We also need to remember that the majority of our audiences are just like us – time-strapped and busy, impatient, bored or just plain lazy.

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Not even the most avid readers I know want to trawl through paragraphs and paragraphs before finding the information they want. Remember to hook ’em whilst you’ve got ’em, and going back to the idea of “above the fold” make sure you’re doing it before they even need to consider scrolling down the page.

It’s a skill and it does take practice for sure, and I definitely cannot nail it first time, ever. With someone with as much to say as I do, I probably won’t be able to nail it for a while but hey, we live and we learn, right?

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