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June 16, 2016

The Concept of TL;DR: How to Use it for Better Marketing

If you use Reddit for topic or audience research, it’s likely you’ve stumbled across a feed marked “TL;DR” before. And, if you’re like most marketers or Reddit users, you probably scratched your head and wondered what the heck “TL;DR” meant.

Luckily, you’re not alone.

TL;DR isn’t secret code for a tech product you’ve never heard of. Instead, it’s slang that stands for “Too long; didn’t read” and it’s as important to marketing as a whole as it is to the Reddit community. Read on to learn more.

TL;DR Explained

Reddit is a useful tool, but it can be difficult to sort through. Over-excited Redditors often post long threads about specific topics and few marketers have the time or energy to sort through them to find the information they need. Luckily, TL;DR is here to save the day.

It’s not uncommon for Reddit users to encounter threads that are simply too long to skim. In these cases, a user can simply scroll to the bottom of the page and locate a bolded TL;DR section. This TL;DR section offers a condensed version of the information contained in the longer feed, making it easier to find the content users are looking for without the headache of sifting through endless Reddit threads.

Why TL;DR Matters

Does TL;DR seem a little lazy to you? Maybe, but it’s a smart concept that mirrors the current state of content marketing and distribution. You see, right now, the average human has a shorter attention span than a goldfish (thanks a lot, Smartphones). This means that fewer and fewer people are sticking it out for long-form content.

While long-form content still has a place in the broad scheme of online marketing, marketers are smart to offer their readers other solutions. This is why there has been such an explosion of the list-format articles in recent years: when content is broken up into smaller sections, it’s easier for readers to skim, which allows them to get the content they need without wading through a bunch of content they don’t need.

Reddit knows this, and it has created an entire TL;DR section on the Reddit platform in response. In this section, Reddit’s many curators have gathered what they dub “the best of Reddit” so that users can grab quick, easy information without slogging through all of Reddit’s many feeds.

In this TL;DR section, you’ll find many things of interest. For starters, there are incredible headlines that cover multiple vastly different topics all at once (Obama slashes prison sentences for drug offenders, Zootopia grosses $1 billion at the box office, and “Deadbeat” gets canceled by Hulu, for example.)

Once you click a headline, you’re taken to a page that breaks the content up according to subreddits like news, technology, astronomy and science. From this page, users can navigate to the topics they want without the hassle of searching Reddit’s complicated backlog for them.

Using TL;DR to Improve Marketing: 4 Tips

Now that you know what TL;DR is and how it informs Reddit and other online forums let’s talk about how you can take it and apply it to your marketing. Follow these steps to get started:

1. Make your content clear as a bell

The TL;DR mission is all about providing clear, concise content readers can interact with easily. Even if you don’t shave your content down to bare bones, you should work hard to make it as concise as possible. This means getting rid of excess wording, dividing your content into simple, easy to understand language, using bolded headers, lists and bullet points to break up content chunks, and arranging content in a reasonable and intuitive fashion.

2. Show readers the way

Nobody wants to navigate through your content like a puzzle. Because of this, it’s important to provide a clear path through your content. Make sure all of your ideas flow from one to the next and avoid slapping your reader in the face with left-field information or facts. This keeps the content streamlined and helps consumers engage with your material.

3. Shorten your content

If you can make your content shorter, do it. This helps skim-hungry readers engage and makes your site a go-to for quick information gathering.

4. Become a storyteller

If your content is going to be shorter and more pared-down, it also needs to be more interesting. By incorporating elements of storytelling into your content, you can hook reader attention and ensure that they’re interacting with your content, even if you’re doing everything in your power to shorten it up and make it easier to read.

The Case for TL;DR

While TL;DR was once a term limited to chat rooms and online messaging apps, it’s a helpful marketing tool as well. By incorporating this concept into your marketing, you can better serve your readers and offer more information-dense, and engaging content.


Julia McCoy is a top 30 content marketer and has been named an industry thought leader by several publications. She enjoys making the gray areas of content marketing clear with practical training, teaching, and systems. Her career in content marketing was completely self-taught. In 2011, she dropped out of college to follow her passion in writing, and since then grew her content agency, Express Writers, to thousands of worldwide clients from scratch. Julia is the author of two bestselling books on content marketing and copywriting, and is the host of The Write Podcast. Julia writes as a columnist on leading publications and certifies content strategists in her training course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter, husband, and one fur baby.