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People’s attention span is around eight seconds. Eight seconds. It probably took me longer than that to come up with the headline for this article – probably because the task lost my attention.
What does that time span mean to content marketers and authentic storytellers?
Does it mean content should be short? Consumable in eight seconds total? That would be around the length of a Tweet or something close to it.
While it’s possible to tell stories in Tweets, not all content needs to be that short. I love Twitter, but I also still read books. Sometimes in hardcover format and sometimes on my Kindle app.
What do all the great books and Tweets have in common? They continuously regenerate our interest in them.
I’ve seen Tweets that put me to sleep. Usually it’s the ones that use every single character and words are abbreviated that make the reading hard and less than enjoyable.
I’ve also seen books that assume readers will stick around. They drag on, are verbose and are hiding facts in complex sentence structures. Some people might read them – I assume because they have to.
What the eight-second attention means to content marketers and storytellers is that we have to earn the attention of our audience/community every eight seconds. We have to say something – or at least foreshadow something – to keep people’s attention.
Sometimes that can be a new fact, something surprising or even a picture. During a presentation to a live audience, it might be a change in the presenter’s tone of voice or a deliberate physical movement.
Either way, the eight-second attention span doesn’t mean all stories need to be told completely in eight seconds. It means that we need to earn attention every eight seconds.
Certainly, some stories can be completely told in eight seconds or even two seconds. But we don’t have to undermine the value of complete storytelling just because people’s attention span is eight seconds.
Give the story the length it needs to be told correctly and in a way that’s engaging.