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  • Writer's pictureRanieri & Co.

Changing Attention Span and What it Means for Content - Part 2

Earlier this year, we posted a Blog Post on how our attention span is changing in the digital world and what this means for content type, length and consumption. Looks like it certainly got your attention (how meta!) as has become our most popular blog post ever! We get it, we all want to know if our brains are becoming more goldfish-like and how we can cut through in the ever expanding content economy. Here we are with part 2, delving deeper into how we consume information and entertainment and what drives a long-term customer relationship with content.

Is our attention span decreasing... or evolving?

A Microsoft study that revealed the average attention span is down to eight seconds from the 12-second average clocked in 2000. However, other studies such as the Prezi’s 2018 State of Attention Report, suggest that

our attention spans are not so much shortening as they are evolving.

The Oracle ID Graph shows that the average person has about 5 devices, which means they have endless choices about what to consume and how. As more and more content becomes available to us, with 800,000 new podcasts launching last year and 500 million tweets being shared per day (!), we are getting more discerning about the type of media we consume.

According to Prezi’s survey, 42% of consumers are choosier now than they were a year ago. We also have the sophisticated algorithms of services like Netflix and Spotify that will make those choices for us based on our past behaviours and preferences. The next generation will laugh when we tell them that we used to turn the TV on and watch whatever was on rather than opting into a tightly curated selection of media.


Consumers typically spend 10-20 seconds on a web page before clicking away. Facebook has revealed that its users will give an average of 1.7 seconds of their attention to a piece of mobile content on the platform and 2.5 seconds on desktop — even less time for younger audiences. However, in 2020, Netflix users watched an average of 3.2 hours of video per day and the average podcast listener consuming 4.3 shows per week. This data suggests that the type and quality of media has a huge role in our ability to concentrate on it. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that a customer won’t remember the micro-interaction they had with a piece of content, or that a snackable piece of content can’t be meaningful. All types of media have a role in engagement and marketing, appealing to the audience at different times in different contexts.

Look at the rise of TikTok for example. It has been reported in a recent State of Mobile study that individuals spend more time on the new social media channel than they do on YouTube, a platform where the average video length is 11.7 minutes. Android phone users now spend an average of 24.5 hours in TikTok per month, and this is growing. The videos may be short (max 3 mins), but the platform is inspiring long bouts of immersion.

Cutting through with bravery

One way to stand out within the infinite void of content is to be daring and bold with your ad messaging. More and more, consumers are expecting brands to take a stand on social issues, this strategy gaining high returns especially with millennials and Gen Z. Look at Nike’s Dream Crazy for example, a socially aware commercial starring Colin Kaepernick that tackled racial injustice and won the brand the award for outstanding commercial at the Creative Arts Emmys. Videos were uploaded of people burning Nike products. However, the company’s stock rose by 5% in the weeks following the ads release.

In tandem, we have seen a rise in news and current affairs podcasts such as Wondery’s Talking Tech and MSNBC’s Why Is This Happening? with Chris Hayes. By driving home a bold message in a hyper-relevant environment, listener attention is unlocked.

The power of audio

While our thumbs scroll, our fingers type and our poor eyes get tired from staring at screens all day (and night!), putting headphones on and listening to audio can feel like a welcome solace. It takes our brain at least one-quarter of a second to process visual recognition. But sound? You can recognize a sound in 0.05 seconds. We're wired to tune out non-essential sound, so the world doesn't feel like a sensory overload. Research shows that brand stories told just audibly inspire an average 50% more positive emotional peaks than brand stories told just visually. This means podcast memories are likely to sustain over time, given their strong emotional component. The key part is telling stories your customers give a damn about.

The future of ads

As we become more and more data driven and sophisticated in our ability to target, we can personalise content to appeal to specific audiences and optimise like never before.

As marketers gain insight into what is working best and produce more of it, audiences gain more of their favourite shows. It’s a win-win for marketers and consumers alike.

Amongst the growing variety within podcast ads, there are two highly effective ways to advertise - host read ads that are baked into the show, or pre-produced (whether host read or voiced-over) ads that are dynamically inserted.

Both ad types can capitalise on the intimacy and trust built between the host and listener if they are host-read. This leads to organic delivery and high engagement. Baked-in ads have the advantage of longevity and mass reach as they will be heard wherever in the world the podcast is listened to. Dynamic insertion has the advantage of buying efficiency, targeting capabilities and contextual relevance. Our take? It depends on the product, campaign and timing. Sometimes both are a great idea. Both can deliver fantastic business results. We’re excited about the evolution of the medium and how more and more awesome content being produced will drive this.

Want to learn more about the potential of podcasts? Hit us up anytime.


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