I just realized that when I see an appealing Axios headline I groan with the same dread I feel when someone on Facebook posts something, “long and dense, but worth your time.”
Axios articles, meanwhile, are short and light and not worth my time. In fact for me, they are almost impossible to read.
The upshot: Why? Because they keep interrupting themselves with those boldfaced copy-confusers that leave me wondering, “What makes this the ‘upshot,’ exactly?” When I should just be reading the goddamn copy.
The downdraft: Axios articles are so short, they don’t need these bold bits any more than a haiku needs a pull-out quote.
The assgrab: Axios is pretending to have a formula (they call it “smart brevity”), but all they have is a format that looks digestible but actually goes down like thumb tacks.
The throughput: I can’t remember a single phrase or even a quote from anything I’ve ever read from Axios. In fact, I can remember only two stories. On one, I was a source. And the other was last Thursday. (Read on.) Everything you read in Axios is unsurprising; it must be, because to get across something counterintuitive or unconventional, your source needs room to explain—and the Axios reporter or editor needs courage of conviction, which is not an Axios trademark.
The backsplash: Most Axios articles contain almost nothing of substance or sense, and the “smart brevity” format—that hundreds of corporations are paying Axios for the license to plague their employees with, by the way—is just a disguise, in the way that the old Dewar’s Profile used to make even the most inane interview look “juicy.”
The caveat: Axios is trying to appear to do something useful, by creating community-based newsletters. I subscribe to Axios Communicators, which is trying to basically recreate what PR and comms trade newsletters used to do before they all went out of business 20 years ago: trend stories mixed with “corporate moves,” which let communicators who get new jobs see their names in bold. But Axios’ format—and also, that format’s lack of room for iconic voices from the community and its absolute reliance on conventional wisdom—condemns all these efforts to be just … so … shallow. And so how rich and robust can the resulting “community” become? Not very.
The duck snort: Axios Communicators truly could become a useful thing in our business (just as I imagine all Axios community newsletters could be useful, too). But like all Axios products, Axios Communicators appeals to the skimmers who want to feel like they’re up on the latest—not knowledgeable people who want to build a deeper understanding of their life’s work. For instance, I know something about corporate communication. At least I did, until I spent four hours last Thursday gaping at this Axios infographic.
The dismount: Catering to the hopelessly incurious only reassures them they weren’t missing much in the first place. And it repels anyone serious enough to be worthy of your readership. Congraxios.