Attention Spans Decreasing or Something Else?

We’ve all heard it before “the human attention span is only 8 seconds long.” That’s why you have to snag their interest with a great headline, blah, blah, blah. But what if it isn’t our attention spans? What if it’s something else, and it ties more directly to your content quality? 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

Attention spans; are they going down or is it something else? You can probably judge by the title that I think it’s something else.

Less Than the Attention Span of a Goldfish

Humans went from having a 12-second attention span to an 8-second attention span. That’s less than a goldfish. 

We’ve been playing around with these numbers for a while. They first appeared in Microsoft Canada research, and everybody took it as a fact. But did you know that this number did not come from Microsoft’s actual research? 

It was cited in their research report, and the number actually came from an organization called Statistic Brain, who also cited some vague sources. I read a very interesting article by Simon Maybin, in which he went  through tracking down these sources. He couldn’t get a response from Statistic Brain. He couldn’t get a response from the sources that they cited. 

That’s not to say that somebody didn’t assess that human attention spans are 8 seconds, but it’s been a bit of a rough journey actually figuring out where that number came from. 

If It’s Not Attention Spans, Then What?

I think it’s something else. I think it’s the tolerance level that’s gone down. We have a low tolerance level for content that doesn’t serve us. 

Low Tolerance for the Subpar

With all of the options for content that are possible online, why would you waste any time on something that doesn’t serve you at all? On something that’s subpar, doesn’t make sense to you, or that’s low quality? Why would you do that when you know you could find better elsewhere? Why would you waste your time? 

I know we don’t. That’s what high bounce rates and low website traffic indicates. That’s why your website is ranked lower on search engines. It’s because your content isn’t where it needs to be. 

This comes from a variety of things. It comes from not investing properly in content as part of your marketing strategy, but it also comes from doing content just to do content. It doesn’t have a real purpose within your organization, and it’s just out there floating around. 

Binge-Watching as It Relates to Your Audience’s Attention Spans

Couldn’t you go watch a 2-hour movie right now if you wanted to? I’m sure that you’ve watched at least one within the last month. As a matter of fact, you might’ve watched the Avengers: Endgame movie, which was nearly 4 hours. So you can’t tell me that people can sit through things like that, and then tell me that attention spans are low. That just doesn’t make sense. 

Netflix Introduced Us to Binge-Watching

Netflix ushered in the era of binge-watching shows. Instead of waiting for it to come out week by week, I pick one season of a show and watch the entire thing. Netflix often releases shows that way; season by season, or even the entire thing all at once. 

We binge-watch them because they’re interesting. We don’t want to wait. There are people who will sit and watch several hours of TV over the course of 3 days. That’s not because their attention span is low. 

Is Your Content Binge-Worthy?

So you have to ask yourself; is your content binge-worthy? Is it even worth paying any attention to? Go look at it with an objective eye, and then try to answer that question honestly for yourself. 

Is your content binge-worthy? Is it worth reading when you compare it to your nearest competitors? When you look at their content, how does your content compare? Is it worthy of the attention that you want it to have?

People are not generally numb that we’d continue to read something that doesn’t do anything for us. So as a global society, with all of our options, we’ve developed a low tolerance for subpar content in any form. This could be text, videos, images, and any other sort of content that’s going to be more relevant in the future, like virtual and augmented reality. 

It’s going to include all of those things. They’re already here. It can’t be subpar. I always say it; quality over quantity. A stellar blog post will outperform 16 crappy blog posts over time. 

Reevaluate and Update Content

We have to reevaluate and look at content. Even right now, I’m rewriting and adding to a blog article that’s been on my site for several months, because I’ve learned new things. I’ve got more to add to it. My understanding of certain concepts has become more refined. 

This blog post gets traffic from search engines to my site, so I want to make it better. The data tells me that people are interested in this topic, and I know I can make it better. So now we’re going to move up. 

At the time, that was the best I could do. That was my level of “stellar”. Now, my level of “stellar” is up, and I have to fix it. 

Are you catering to your audience’s intolerance for subpar content? Are you delivering what they expect from you? It’s not their attention spans. It is the quality of your content.

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