TV presenter Andrew Marr may well be reading the newspapers today with added interest. In case you missed it – he had an extra-marital affair and then went and got one of the controversial “super injunctions” to prevent people from publishing any information about it. The fact that the information was apparently already available online and that dozens of people in the media knew about it anyway, seemed to have slipped by the lawyers. Ho hum.
But as Andrew Marr reads the stories today he will doubtless be thinking a great deal about himself. In fact, according to intriguing new research from the University of Buffalo, reading is a significant method in which we increasingly understand ourselves. The more you read, it seems, the better you understand yourself.
This is fundamental information in the days of the Internet. Never before have people read so much. Reading is still the number one online activity, in spite of the popularity of YouTube, podcasts and online gaming. Just think – to interact with your friends on Facebook, you have to read something. In the past you just chatted on the phone or down the pub. In the past, when you sought information you asked someone – now you read it online. And if you wanted to catch up on the office gossip, you went for a coffee or a chat around the water cooler – now you read Twitter. The amount of material you read has risen exponentially in the past few years. Never before have you read so much.
All of which implies, rather like Andrew Marr, we are learning a lot about ourselves when we do this extensive reading. Indeed the researchers say: “Reading works not just for escape or education, but as something that fulfils a deep psychological need.”
It therefore also suggests that when you fill your website with reading material, you are creating stronger links and bonds with your visitors. They find it psychologically useful in a subconscious way and thereby you have much more of an impact than you might think.
In spite of the plethora of advice on online video, in spite of all the information urging you to do podcasts and in spite of the suggestions from some in the web design community that less is more, having lots and lots to read on your website creates psychological connections with your visitors. The more you write, the more they read and the more they learn about themselves. And as other research has shown, the more we feel comfortable with ourselves, the more confident we become. And that’s what you want – self-assured, confident people reading your website – because they are the people most likely to press that “buy now” button.
It seems that not only is the Internet as a whole helping us psychologically by giving us lots to read, it can also help your business – assuming your website provides lots to read as well. It is another piece in the jig-saw showing us that content is king.
- Andrew Marr abandons injunction over affair with fellow journalist (dailymail.co.uk)
- BBC’s Marr: Why I sought gag order (mirror.co.uk)
- Reading allows us to belong to fictitious groups (amanwithaphd.wordpress.com)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+