A Microsoft study discovered that the average human attention span decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013 – that’s one second shorter than a goldfish*. Qwerty quality is to blame!
The word “Qwerty” describes the most common keyboard layout used today. The name comes from reading the first six keys appearing on the top left letter row of the keyboard. Typing isn’t directly to blame for slowing our attention spans down to one second behind that of the first fish to be domesticated, however …
“All is not lost, and we are not diminishing as a human race; however, what we are really doing is getting a lot better at scanning content and picking up the key themes,” reassures Matthew Arnold, head of Native Media – a total-audience, full-channel media solution.
He adds that inventive platforms like Twitter (which has reduced news to 140 characters or less) bombard people with information. “There is no way that we can read everything, every day, but we pick up highlights and we skim over everything. Now and again we will find a piece of content, that is really interesting and is worthy of our time, to dive into.”
The time we spend consuming media has also changed, Arnold explains: “As humans we are consuming more and more media every day, every week and every year. If you look over the past 20 years, our media consumption has moved from 60 hours to almost 90 hours a week.”
Social media is playing a major role in this phenomenon … Journalist’s Resource (named one of the best free reference websites by the American Library Association) explains in its piece: Social media sharing, news and opinion leadership: Recent research.
“In a June 2015 report, the firm SocialFlow analysed eight-million posts shared by its clients – which include many media companies – and concluded that these posts had generated 116-billion impressions and billions of additional engagements or interactions with content.”
SocialFlow, which is based in New York City and uses algorithms to optimise the reach of content, notes that the dynamics of these networks, particularly with respect to Facebook, have changed fairly dramatically over the past 22 months.
“This has benefited many media companies, even though it has made life more difficult for marketers of other products: Indeed, many media companies have seen their reach for average posts increase two-fold over that period, revealing that Facebook is not only allocating more reach to each post, but growing overall reach for media companies as well,” the reference website points out.
People do not consume media in silos, however, as Arnold points out: “We listen to the radio on our phones, watch TV on iPads, read magazines on laptops and use multiple platforms to make purchases.”
“We are entering a time of massive change in the media planning arena,” says veteran media planning specialist Gordon Muller, channel strategist at Native Media. “Most agencies are attempting to integrate digital media into the traditional media mix, bolting the digital offering onto traditional media strategies and schedules.”
He continues: “Currently digital media is being used to amplify traditional media campaigns or to facilitate brand engagement. We believe digital messaging needs to be the starting point, with traditional media used to expand the offering.”
Consumers have changed and will continue to change. The way media planning and strategy has always been done has to evolve to meet and exceed consumers’ changing needs. “Digital is no longer a channel. It is a vital part of every channel,” says Arnold.
In conclusion, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, says it best: “We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce, to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is, increasingly, human attention.”
* You can download the study: “How does digital affect Canadian attention?” at http://advertising.microsoft.com/en/cl/31966/how-does-digital-affect-canadian-attention-spans.