Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

650 words on the beauty of simple messages simply said

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 15, 2006

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

The best stories have a beautiful simplicity. And this blogging medium has revealed a tremendous amount about how we consume and express ideas.

One revelation is that our minds comprehend things one at a time, and we will quickly forget whatever wasn't first, or last. Therefore it is best to say one thing and say it many times.

I used to think that fitting more information into an 800 word news analysis was a good goal. The challenge that I adored was how to explain the many strategic nuances of markets and large companies in a way that covered the entire waterfront. In just 600 to 800 words.

My thinking has changed over the past two years, especially since I left the Financial Times to become a journalist blogger. I learnt a lot at the FT, and I have learnt a lot from the blogging community--and I am a better journalist and person because of this.

One of the things I learned is that less is more. In print, we would would have to "fill" a 400 word news story or a 2400 word feature--we were filling space with lots of related information. In the online world, where there is infinite space, brevity is rewarded. There is no need to stretch a 200 word news story into 450 words just because the page has been reformatted for the next edition and there is just 30 seconds before it is sent to the printer.

In the online world, less is more; plus keep things simply direct. And don't afraid to say the same thing as many times as seems fit.

Journalists used to laugh and bemoan USA Today. When it launched, my colleagues would point to the 100 word news stories, the 600 word features. Where were the 8,000 word New Yorker type analytical pieces that you could get your teeth into? To its critics, USA Today represented the dumbing down of America, it was sound bites in print.

But now, I would say USA Today was way ahead of its time. USA Today should receive recognition for its understanding that the best way to communicate important ideas is to communicate just one thing, and to do it as simply as possible.

Case Study

Earlier this week I popped into an event hosted by Wyse Technology to promote their "Thin Computing" concept. This is the use of thin-PC-client hardware combined with centrally managed Citrix and VMware software to replace thousands of PCs.

The presentation included a big audience magnet: super star blogger John Battelle, the lead Google watcher who moderated a panel on Thin Computing. And Wyse gave away hundreds of copies of his book The Search.

There were some well produced videos showing customer deployments. And there was an interesting social enterprise side to the message too: making internet access more affordable to the emerging middle classes in the poorest regions of the world. This technology could help bridge the digital divide between those with or without-- Internet access.

Wyse was able to say the same message about the value of Thin Computing in at least a dozen different ways. It got to repeat its message many times, and keep things interesting.

And the message was: thin-PC-clients managed and updated from a remote location = huge savings on support costs with exactly the same PC user experience. We call it Thin Computing--here is where you buy it.

Let me ask you, can you say what you or your company does in two sentences? Try it, put it in the comments. I'll even let you have a whole paragraph... :-)


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