It’s a commonly held belief that attention spans are getting shorter, it seems to have been proven with scientific data and is a fact often quoted when it comes to producing marketing content, especially videos.
It’s a commonly held belief that attention spans are getting shorter, it seems to have been proven with scientific data and is a fact often quoted when it comes to producing marketing content, especially videos. ‘We need to keep in under 2 minutes because attention spans are getting shorter’ is often heard in pre-production meetings. It is my view that saying ‘attention spans are getting shorter’ is inaccurate and is a misinterpretation of the data.
As most parents know it’s often a struggle to get stop their children playing videos games for hours on end or spending hours texting or using social media. Likewise, we are the ‘Netflix binge’ generation, powering through a new mini-series from start to finish. Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Queens Gambit, 1am. Sound familiar?
The traditional feature film is often too short to really establish the characters and create an interesting story, which is one of the reasons the not so mini-series is becoming so popular. So how can attention spans be getting shorter, yet we are spending more time watching TV and engaging with video games and online content?
I think it’s not that attention spans are getting shorter, it’s just getting increasingly more and more difficult to get people’s attention and to keep it, because we now have so much choice.
If you think about it, the phrase ‘attention spans are getting shorter’ blames the audience when the real problem is the quality of the content on offer. In other words, don’t blame a short attention span on the fact that people are not watching your content.
This shift away from blaming the audience and looking more carefully at the content itself opens up some interesting possibilities.
One example is first impressions. You only have a few seconds to make a first impression. In person and with content the same rules apply. Create intrigue, the promise of new information or something entertaining and do it quickly, then, and this is important, deliver on that promise. The term ‘click bait’ is basically something that grabs people’s attention and creates intrigue but ultimately does not deliver on the promise, and you will not believe how it does that.
Click bait style headlines are fine as long as you can deliver some value. All stories need an arc with a resolution at the end, but you need to let an audience know that it’s worth the wait. TV shows often show dramatic clips at the start to how an audience what is coming, or they go to an ad break, or end a series on a cliff hanger. All these techniques can be used in producing marketing content, especially video. The lesson here is, If the start of your content is not creating intrigue, get rid of it, even if it’s only one second long. Grab people’s attention quickly and don’t waste any time. Make sure people see enough value early on and they will then go on the journey with you and engage with your content.