Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Q: How many kids with ADD does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Hey! Let's go ride bikes!

Even when I'm squeezed for time, I usually read two small magazines: New Scientist, and The Week. I'm more likely to spend time with them than the New Yorker (which I always do enjoy when I get to it) or even the astonomy magazines that pile up by my recliner.

What those two have in common is brevity and a well-defined theme. Each is a kind of overview or survey. Immodestly enough, New Scientist bills itself as "The week's best ideas," while The Week proclaims itself "All you need to know about everything that matters." With them, I can spend a half-hour or 45 minutes and feel like I accomplished something. (I've been reading "The Rise of American Democracy" forever – it's 992 pages – and 45 minutes there doesn't feel like any progress at all.)

I think we need to help our readers feel some of that satisfaction reading the paper: the sense that you can get through it and come away satisfied, even if you don't read everything. Busy people need points of exit as well as points of entry into the paper.

What kinds of techniques can accomplish that?
– Howard Weaver

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