Can We Please Kill The Attention Span Myth?

Attention Span Myth

Try as I might to dispel the myth of the shrinking attention span, it continues to dominate way too many marketing presentations and keynote speeches. So, I worked with a colleague of mine at Ablog Cinema to produce the first in a series of videos that dispel some myths and misconceptions online… as well as bring some of my rants to the public.

Make your blog posts shorter, make your videos shorter, make your graphics simpler… the list of terrible advice goes on and on. And the attention span myth has not just been spread by marketers, it’s also been spread by major news media, including Time magazine, the Telegraph, the GuardianUSA Today, the New York Times, the National Post, Harvard on US radio and in the management book Brief. Ugh.

Thankfully, one media outlet did the work and investigated the myth that human attention spans were shrinking… the BBC. Author Simon Maybin contacted the listed source of the data – the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the US National Library of Medicine, and the Associated Press – and neither can find any record of research that backs up the stats.

In, yet, another irony… Simon finds that goldfish actually don’t have short attention spans, either!

It’s About Choice!

We now live in a world where everything is on-demand and literally at our fingertips. Here are some examples:

  • SEO – I searched for some assistance this morning on some code that I was writing. I clicked the first few results on the search engine results page and didn’t find what I was looking for. I then rewrote the search a few ways and ultimately found the exact information that I needed. Does that mean that my attention span was shorter because I spent little time on each search result? No, it meant they weren’t relevant and I continued searching for the information I needed until I found it. My attention span never, every swayed from the task at hand… but the choices did.
  • Audio and Video – I love listening to podcasts and watching videos, but I have no patience for bloviating or self-promoting speakers. I will skip listening or watching videos continuously… until I get to a result where the quality and production provides me what I want. And then I may listen for hours if the topic is informational and entertaining. We live in a world of binge-watching on-demand video… folks, there’s no attention span issues on a weekend of Game of Thrones!

AJ does a great job of even sharing videos where the target audience is between nine years and fifteen years old! For all of history, old curmudgeons have battled young people to pay attention… and these YouTubers are able to get billions of views for videos that sometimes last more than an hour.

What our youth have that we didn’t have is choice and convenience.

So What Does That Mean for Marketers?

I would challenge marketers to move in the opposite direction. Provide in-depth articles, tons of statistics, helpful advice, infographics, videos, and podcasts that deep dive into topics of interest to your target audience. We continue to

Every client that we develop a content library for with these deep dives produce amazing results for them. Sure… some irrelevant visitors scan and leave… but prospects who are looking for the information stay, devour, share, and engage on the information provided. If you want to win at content, stop producing endless streams of junk content and provide high quality, informative content that your target audience is seeking!

What do you think?

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