Slate, possibly in an effort to sell you on its articles, now has a feature that tells you how long it will take to read any given piece. So, is, "2m to read" really going make you click? Someone at Slate hopes the answer to that is an emphatic yes.
From a marketing perspective, it makes sense. It's an easy way to tell someone that this won't take any time and if they need to leave work right at 4:30 p.m., they can click on "Kobe Bryant Is a Brilliant Investor" and have one more minute to spare because that story is "1m to read." That little tag screams, "this is short" and "click on this." Conversely, "It’s Time to Bring Back the Guillotine" with its "4m to read" is four times as long, and something you'd probably do over lunch. By the way, we're not just picking on Slate. They're not the only publication doing this.
While it makes sense as a marketing ploy, writers aren't too jazzed about it. As, Slate's own movie critic Dana Stevens points out, this hurts the feelings a little bit:
For Writers (I have no idea how long this will take to read)
Some writers spend a really long time reporting and writing things to present to you. Something you see online might have taken hours, days or weeks to think up, write, and re-write. There's something depressing about spending all that time on something to then have it packaged as something to be consumed in four minutes. Like, this four minutes of your time is an hour or six of someone's else's. It's not unlike if you spent all day cooking dinner and then have your family inhale it and then get back to what they were doing before they got hungry. It happens, but you don't want to be reminded of it.