As I dove into the design challenges of creating this site, what quickly emerged as my top priority was to give people some genuinely good reasons to read a screen.
What I came up with was an exposition structure that breaks online content into smaller, more modular units that people can choose to either read or skip. Although the conventional wisdom at the time was that you couldn't get anybody to read more than about 350 words online, my new format had people happily reading to the end of 2,000-word essays.
The difference was that instead of asking people to slog through an infinite-looking stream of verbiage without so much as a page break (which made them feel like kids in the back seat of a car whining "Are we almost there yet?"), my new way of presenting them with a choice of modular sections enabled them to, in effect, keep choosing to eat one more salted peanut.
Also, because I put a short descriptive title on each modular unit and presented the titles of the selectable units in groups, rather than only one at a time, people could see there was an easy way to skim without missing anything they might consider important.