Why You Shouldn't Buy Into The Attention Span Myth - Chief Media

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Into The Attention Span Myth

paper saying attention please

As it turns out, there’s no real evidence that goldfish or humans have particularly short attention spans. Sure, sometimes a 30-minute conference call will fail to penetrate your consciousness, but what about your ability to track the noble houses, kingdoms, and religions that belong to the 3 million characters on Game of Thrones? Clearly, we are selective about what’s worth our time. So, what about smartphones and nonstop social media? Generally, when we encounter information overload, we don’t even attempt to tune in. We isolate what we actually want and need to know from the noise, and we’re getting increasingly good at it. This is why marketers should take a moment to let the reality of consumer selectivity sink in.

Where did the myth come from

Some say smartphones are to blame, while others point to the relentlessly connected world of social media. Whatever phenomenon played the role of the villain, the story in 2015 was all about the apocalypse of the attention span. Our ability to focus was declining and therefore doomed. It wasn’t the sky that was falling, it was the number of seconds we could devote to a task. The often-quoted stats went something like this:

Average Attention Span in 2000: 12 Seconds

Average Attention Span Today: 8 Seconds

These stats have played on repeat for a few years now, and the damage is done. Many people now actually believe human attention to be subpar and comparable to a goldfish. If a task isn’t particularly demanding or interesting, we won’t devote much attention. The same goes for undertakings we are familiar with. We already know how it goes, works, etc., so we skim and give it the minimum focus required to complete. Alternatively, if the task is outside of our experiences or somehow contrary to our expectations, the level of attention increases and focus becomes deeper.

As it turns out, there’s no real evidence that goldfish or humans have particularly short attention spans. Sure, sometimes a 30-minute conference call will fail to penetrate your consciousness, but what about your ability to track the noble houses, kingdoms, and religions that belong to the 3 million characters on Game of Thrones? Clearly, we are selective about what’s worth our time. So, what about smartphones and nonstop social media? Generally, when we encounter information overload, we don’t even attempt to tune in. We skim, cut out the stuff that we don’t care about and binge on topics, tasks and conversations of interest. We isolate what we actually want and need to know from the noise, and we’re getting very good at it. This is where marketers should take a moment to let the reality of consumer selectivity sink in.

Grab attention and hold on to it

Presentation software company Prezi teamed up with Kelton Research to compile some new numbers to think about when creating the kind of content that has a stronger chance of sticking. The findings, presented in Prezi’s 2018 State of Attention report, focus on business professionals and how they interact with the content that is coming their way 24/7. More than half of those surveyed reported an improvement in attention, saying they can give undivided attention to a piece of content if it is something they want or need to know and understand. The study zeroed in on people at work but took a multigenerational approach to the age spread. It appeared that attention was expanding across all generations, but Boomers will need to hold on to their hats because, contrary to popular tropes around the flaky factor of younger generations, millennials look positioned to surpass the attention spans of previous generations. But only if you catch their attention to begin with.

people sitting on benches looking at smart devices

It is an increasingly noisy world. What has become harder is grabbing and maintaining attention because of so many other attractive options out there.

The conquest to win over attention spans will require a significant amount of creativity. The most important thing, however, is to tell a GREAT STORY.

Keeping in mind that the definition of a great story is subjective, it’s more important than ever to understand your audience and know what kinds of narratives are meaningful and relatable to where they are at in life, how they want to consume content, and when and where it makes sense to introduce your story to them. Audience-driven stories and pictures that engage is priority number one. Spinning up great creative that really nails what your target is interested in and excited by means you’re miles ahead of the competition, but don’t forget that you also need to tailor content to the specific device the medium is experienced in. And of course, content filters are the bane of many campaigns, so remember that looks matter and watch for design elements that say “spam” to a filter like the use of thick borders and colored backgrounds.

So are consumer attention spans actually declining? No. Marketers who quickly move beyond this mythical statistic and figure out how to make the most of attention statistics 2.0 are on their way to becoming kings of the content.

If you are looking to better capture the attention of your audience, contact us to craft a media plan that gets in front of your target audience.

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