The Wadsworth Constant is the fundamental idea that the true meaning of a video, conversation, or comment approaches importance after approximately 30 percent of it has been skipped over.
That definition comes from Urban Dictionary, which, for the uninitiated, is not a particularly shining example of definitions, reliability, or good taste. However, there’s a reason the Constant appears on the site. There’s nothing scientific about it – it’s a meme.
Named after the Internet user who proposed it, the Wadsworth Constant stipulates that the most relevant parts of an online video don’t appear until 30 percent of the way into it. In practice, it holds surprisingly true.
Thus, if you adhere to the principles of The Wadsworth Constant while reading, then you’re just starting this article right about here.
While video is becoming a major medium for brand storytelling, the written piece (article, blog post, report, etc.) is still considered an effective communication tool for content marketers. However, does the reading audience, like Wadsworth and his devotees, also skip to the meaty bits? No. It seems with written content, the equivalent of The Wadsworth Constant is the exact opposite of its original premise: people start reading, but don’t stay until the end.
(Here’s the Reverse Wadsworth Constant point – you’ll learn about that later).
The Slate article “You Won’t Finish this Article: Why people online don’t read to the end,” 38 percent of readers who landed on the page abandoned it immediately. The next segment, about 5 percent, left before they were required to scroll past the “fold.” With the help of the traffic analysis company Chartbeat, Slate found that readers who start an article typically make it through 60 percent of the piece. Which, with the remaining 40 percent left unread, is nearly the Wadsworth Constant in reverse.
The Reverse Wadsworth is even worse for longer, downloadable written content, such as ebooks, reports and guides. Studies by Docalytics show that 35 percent of readers spend less than 30 seconds reviewing that type of content. According to Steve Peck, cofounder of Docalytics, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Successful content marketers view the fact that their content does not resonate with all readers as a testament that they are doing their job well,” wrote Peck. “These marketers write with the explicit purpose of delighting the audiences as defined by their brand’s personas.”
Take that, Wadsworth.