"There is a lot of evidence in a variety of fields, including highly technical and sophisticated fields such as science and medicine, that there is more 'horizontal' reading [skimming] today because the volume of material has grown so dramatically," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project, in an email.
"So, even the most expert readers, trying to keep up with all the developments in their fields, are struggling to sort through the titles and abstracts of articles and figuring out which ones they should read from beginning to end."
That change is likely here to stay. According to a recent study by the Pew Internet Project, fewer school kids are reading and writing in the traditional way. They are skimming and surfing, whether the material is on paper or on screen.
Of course we see that at the CNBC website, too. About half of our readers dump out of a story after the first three paragraphs. A handful might make it to the end. Others in our craft have noticed this. (In fact, it's likely that no more than 16 percent of people who started this article made it this far, based on typical reader behavior.)
Of course, people may have been skimming all along. But now, with our technology, it's more obvious.
Want an example? Check out this neat little feature we did a few weeks ago. About two-thirds of the way through it cites a book by Malcolm Gladwell. Now, check out the first comment for the story. It suggests we check out a book by … Malcolm Gladwell. Sigh.