Are attention spans really shrinking, or is something else happening?
Attention spans of the “digital generation” are something that is always being questioned. As a video producer, people always ask, “How long should a video be?” Or they say, “Videos need to be short because attention spans are shrinking.” Another common comment is, “I’ve heard the average video length needs to be less than 2 minutes.”
To some extent that may be true, but for reasons unrelated to attention spans. I can be compared to someone asking, “How far should I drive my car?” Or commenting, “you should drive your car less nowadays.” It makes no sense because there is simply no correlation between your car and the distance it drives, just like there is no correlation between this generation’s attention span and the length of a video.
If This Were True…
If people’s attention spans were truly shrinking, then why don’t people walk out of movie theatres after two minutes? The same question could be asked about people who can people binge-watch an entire season of their favorite show for hours. Something else is going on here. Let’s break it down.
What Actually Contribts To A Viewer’s Attention
People are bombarded daily with messages on TV, radio, billboards, phones, and in their mailboxes. Therefore, they can’t possibly engage and read everything. Our brains’ only job is to keep us alive and, beyond that, to thrive, so everything could become background noise.
To really engage a user you must consider that our brains are always looking for anything relevant to our current situation. We automatically tune out anything we view as uninteresting.
As digital media creators, you must know your audience to understand what’s relevant to them and what is not. Saying a video is too long is equal to saying it contains irrelevant information. When developing video content, you must determine what’s irrelevant and remove it because then it becomes a distraction. The last thing we need is another distraction.
Quick Tips On How To Create Successful Content For Attention Spans
- Focus on immediate needs: When developing content, you must treat it just like an email. The fewer words, the better. Take out what’s not relevant to your audience and focus on their immediate needs.
- Relevance: You must also remember that you cannot be relevant to everyone when you want to be. Depending on that person’s time of day, how busy they are at that moment, the content, and its timely relevance all play a part in whether your audience engages with the content or not.
- Understand the anatomy of a good story: A successful content creator understands the anatomy of a good story and knows what’s relevant to their audience. Understanding your audience is a great starting point.
- Platform: Length of engagement is also platform-specific. A movie is expected to be longer—Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, not so much. Learn to read the room.
- Authenticity: Also, be authentic, and don’t clickbait or draw out a video for no real reason. That’s manipulative and a sign of weak content.
- Be direct: Get to the point fast, don’t repeat yourself, and have a straightforward way to end or summarize your content.
If you are a newbee or a veteran of the video development industry here are some key takeaways! Always remember that a video length is only one metric but not the most important, focus on developing a strong story structure, and know your audience. From there, your video will always be the “right length.”
What appears to be a short attention span is people being inherently good at quickly sorting relevance. Placing the blame on a short attention span ignores an opportunity to be more straightforward and relevant in your content and storytelling skills.
To learn how to develop your storytelling structure, please see our related blog “6 Tips On How To Build A Successful Corporate Video” HERE.