North Texas Daily

Attention span myths and distractions are killing long form media

Attention span myths and distractions are killing long form media

Attention span myths and distractions are killing long form media
March 02
09:00 2023

In modern media, an almost overwhelming amount of content is available for people to consume. Most people believe we constantly crave more media and content because we lack attention due to a decreasing attention span. However, the overwhelming amount of content available has had a narrowing effect on the human attention span.

A 2015 report seemingly published by Canadian Microsoft’s Consumer Insights Team sent the internet into a tailspin after stating that humans have an attention span of eight seconds, while goldfish had a nine-second attention span.

The goldfish statistic came from a separate website, Statistic Brain, which did not provide any evidence to support the claim. While the website links to outside sources like the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the results these studies present are irrelevant to the length of the attention span of humans or goldfish. 

However, after the article was published in 2015, the information spread like wildfire,  reappearing in reputable papers like Time or The Independent without the actual data to back it up. As a result, how media has been produced and marketed revolves around the myth that the average human attention span is 8 seconds. 

In reality, The average attention span for someone 16 to 18 years old varies between 32-50+ minutes, and some adults can have attention spans that go up to 5 or 6 hours, according to The Treetop Therapy. How attention is divided in use determines the consumers’ productivity. 

Millennial content consumption ranges from five to over 20 hours a week, according to a study from the Content Science Review. Most consumers are overwhelmed with choices that can distract them from finishing one thing at a time. 

The Technical University of Denmark argues the human attention span is currently narrowing due to exhaustion caused by the sheer amount of content available now.

There are three main types of attention that users switch between when deciding what content they do and do not want to view: sustained, selective and divided attention. Each type of attention can apply to different aspects of viewership and varies, according to Turtl, a marketing blog. 

Divided attention is most commonly used when attempting to multitask. However, according to a study by the National Library of Medicine, when the brain constantly moves from idea to idea, the efficiency and execution of the concept become errorful.  

When presented with so much information, the question remains, how do consumers keep themselves from skimming the information of a long-form media piece? 

Short-form content is generally under 1,200 words or a 10-minute video, whereas long-form content is over 1,200 words and over 10 minutes long, according to Hurddat Marketing.

Whether or not people pay attention to content relies heavily on how demanding the content is to consume. Keeping things engaging will allow consumers to feel as if what they are currently consuming is worth it

Creators found a solution to shortening attention spans by keeping content bite-sized, but this method keeps longer-form content from being produced at all. In other words, shortening and simplifying content is necessary if content creators want to stay relevant.

Movies, televisions and ads are not exempt from the current content-shortening trend, which makes it harder for people to want to extend the extra effort to consume longer content. In order to prevent the downfall of long-form content, the populace as a whole has to slow down in the consumption and instant gratification that comes with cell phones and social media.

One way to increase attention span and keep long-form media from becoming obsolete is for consumers to read more. While the internet has increased individual users’ abilities for short-term memory and multitasking abilities, the divided attention that is needed to complete that task actually eliminates the effectiveness of doing more than one thing at a time.

Taking the time to read, whether a novel or otherwise can improve the ability to focus and stay focused, which lengthens attention spans, according to Hawaii Pacific Neuroscience.

If consumers and creators unanimously begin to understand and see the effects of engaged storytelling and creation, they can breathe new life into an almost dead form of content creation.

Featured Illustration by Jazmine Garcia

About Author

Gianna Ortner-Findlay

Gianna Ortner-Findlay

Related Articles


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

The Roundup

<script id="mcjs">!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,"script","");</script>

Search Bar

Sidebar Thumbnails Ad

Sidebar Bottom Block Ad

Flytedesk Ad