Screens, Research and Hypertext

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Reporting Progress

The internet has led us to expect answers on the first click. Research reports (mostly) don't do that.

You’ve just finished up a major new piece of research. Now you’re ready to share the results with the world. You open up Word and Excel and start working on your report. By the time you’ve finished writing, reviewing, editing and formatting you have nearly 100 pages of text, charts, and footnotes, all tucked underneath a lovely cover. Finally you’re ready to publish. You hand off a beautiful PDF to your web team and wait for the press coverage to roll in.

If you work anywhere near D.C., you’re probably pretty good at producing reports. In 2015, the U.S. Congress alone officially requested around 4,300 written reports. Tens—perhaps even hundreds—of thousands more are generated by federal agencies, government contractors, think tanks, and other nonprofits. But the processes that we’ve come to rely on to create all of those reports are woefully behind the times.

The Internet has broken traditional publishing models. The gatekeepers are gone. Your report now competes with a billion publishers creating content across a million channels. And it must find its way to an audience that has adopted entirely new ways of finding and reading content online.

The fact is that people read differently online than they did before the Internet.

Finding information used to be slow. You had to start by tracking down a physical object—a newspaper, a journal, a magazine, a book. Then you read through long chunks of text to find what you were looking for.

Finding information on the Internet is much faster. Search queries bring us directly to sources that are already ranked for relevance. A click on a link and a quick scan of the text and we have our answer. The Internet is so much faster at finding answers that we’ve grown a bit impatient. We want answers on the first click, and we don’t want to have to do a lot of reading once we make that click.

For more context

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