Axios is a media brand that loves to boast its “smart brevity.” But how brief is smartly brief? Great question, and I’m glad you asked, because now we have an answer! This morning’s Axios AM newsletter, written by cofounder and executive editor Mike Allen, was a mere 1,191 words, and it takes less than five minutes to read.
How do I know this? Over the last week or so, Axios has been trying out a new section of its newsletter, which lists the exact word count of the daily brief right up top. It’s another way the digital media company telegraphs to its extremely busy and undoubtedly very important reader base that, hey, this will only take you a few minutes to read–but don’t worry: It’s still smart [insert sunglasses emoji]. I’ve noticed it at the top of the Mike Allen newsletter since May 18, and it seems to be appearing on other newsletters, too.
It’s certainly an interesting new feature (is it a feature?), given the thick irony that typing such a header sentence only increases the newsletters’ length. There are a few hypotheses I can come up with regarding the now-listed email length. Perhaps completion rate is going down, which certainly would not be good for a news startup that relies on newsletters as a primary platform. Or perhaps some of the writers are getting, shall I say, a bit too verbose, and this was one way to remind them to “be smart.”
Reached for comment, Allen provided the following statement:
We added word counts as a signal that Axios respects our readers’ time, and as a reminder to ourselves to keep the brevity in Smart Brevity.
It should be said that Axios has long been focused on word count. In its news posts, it always lists how long a story is on the “go deeper” link. So it’s possible this new leading sentence is just a way to incorporate a style tic that the website has long employed.
Whatever the answer, Axios seems to be doubling down on its emphasis on brevity. In my opinion, brevity is good–but there’s something to be said for context, too.
If you’ve made it this far into the article, this post is 376 words, a mere one-minute read.