I keep hearing that our attention span is decreasing. It’s said that in this busy world, with so many choices we can make, the time we devote to any one activity is getting shorter and shorter.
That has implications for us in the content world. Should we be focussing on shorter, snappier content? Are we wasting our time, and our audience’s time, trying to craft longer more creative work?
Firstly, is the “shorter attention span” true?
It feels like it, especially when I see those around me swipe through TikTok and Reels. As soon as they realise the video that’s popped up isn’t for them, it takes a quick tap on the screen and a new video has replaced it.
I spent my childhood watching TV programmes that lasted around half an hour. My children are getting their entertainment on YouTube Shorts, where the maximum video length is a mere 60 seconds.
In the music world, songs are getting shorter. In 1990, the average track released was 4 minutes 19 seconds long. In 2020, it was 3 minutes and 17 seconds. This is driven by streaming algorithms which favour punchier songs.
That’s all anecdotal evidence, is there any science behind the “shorter attention span”?
Some reports point to a study by Microsoft that says the average attention span is only 8 seconds. However, don’t believe everything you find on the internet. It isn’t true.
The fact is that our attention span is as long as it needs to be. The length of time we can focus on something depends on what that something is.
We can happily watch Avengers: Endgame for over 3 hours. It’s no issue to binge a Netflix series in one weekend.
This week, 9 million UK viewers watched England’s extra-time victory over Spain in the 2022 Euros. A football match lasting over two hours? It had no problem holding the attention of its audience.
However, our choices have increased exponentially. I had to watch those half-hour TV shows, there was nothing else on. Today’s audience is much better served. If something doesn’t grab their attention and compel them to stay, they’ll move on somewhere else.
Which helps answer the question – should we be making shorter content for today’s “attention deficit world”?
The answer isn’t in the length of the content. It’s in the quality of that content. Is it well produced? Is it compelling? Does it tell you something you didn’t know?
If your content is good, you’ve got the audience’s attention for as long as you want.
Written by Euan McMorrow, Content Director at AVC Immedia.