Why should we stop talking about attention span getting shorter?

Blog - Belgrade, 01 February 2022

Our attention span is getting shorter. Especially with the younger generations. If you don’t tell them everything you have in 8 seconds, that’s it, they’re leaving.

I think just a few things irritated me more than these claims that I could hear not only since I started working in marketing, but also while I was working at school. They always seemed like fabrications and false statistics to me, something that everyone kept repeating until we became convinced it was true. And I was right.

There is no scientific evidence that human attention span is shortened. It is not even certain what the average duration of attention is. If you are interested in a "more scientific" explanation, you can look at this article where the author explained the origin of this misconception (as almost always in these cases, the source is the same and everyone quotes it without further review) and talked to real experts.

What has always baffled me with the decision to believe in this myth of shorter attention span is that real-world evidence says the opposite: constant binge-watching, YouTube videos getting longer, even TikTok, which has Generation Z notorious for its alleged short attention span as its primary audience, prolongs the duration of its clips. So we are obviously able to consume longer content.

The illusion that attention span is getting shorter comes from the fact that people today have more choices and can easily leave what they are watching and switch to something else if the first content is not interesting enough for them. You can make something interesting using the shock effect, but this is primarily possible for shorter formats. I have the impression that it is the approach more often forced in marketing campaigns.

However, if we take a look at a larger context, what makes us binge-watch tv shows and consume hours and hours of video content is usually the ability of that content to tell a story, no matter how reduced it is. Of course, this is far more difficult to achieve because by acknowledging that the key is in quality, not duration, the responsibility is placed on the one who creates the content, not on the one who consumes it.


Author of the text: Natalija Jovanović, Senior Content Manager

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