Are we losing our attention?

Twitter. Vine. GIFS. Listcicles. The rise of these content types would all point to the inexorable erosion of our collective attention span. We can’t sit in meetings or classrooms for as long. We flit from task to task to app to web. ADHD is on the rise. Technology is fragmenting our attention and we as a society are suffering from it.

Or so the accepted narrative goes. And this flows into our work as marketers – make the headline snappier. Make the copy less challenging. How can we cut this video down to 30 seconds…45 seconds. That’s the way to capture the attention of the audience.

Or is it?

Along with the rise of short form, bite-sized, snackable content, we’re also seeing the rise of #longreads, binge watching and extended video on YouTube. A few facts and personal anecdotes:

40% of all YouTube video views are now on videos more than 40mins in length. And they aren’t just looped cat videos, movies or TV shows. Gamers are creating full-length (or longer) feature movies out of the interstitial clips in games like Injustice: Gods Among Us (below). 2 hours of content. 2 million views. Amazing.

The #longreads hashtag is mentioned more than 100,000 times every 3 months, according to Sysomos, and the twitter feed has that many followers again

The breakout TV shows of the few years have all been enabled by bingewatching, either after the fact or through design – think how Breaking Bad benefited from distribution on Netflix and how House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black have captured our collective conversation.

With connected and synched devices, I can now read longer articles, albeit in shorter sessions, across my desktop, mobile and tablet

Since I bought my iPad and subsequent iPhone, I’ve not only been consuming more content (in the online sense) but have been reading a lot more books. Rather than having to lug a paperback, or worse, hardback, book around, I can now carry thousands of books on my devices and dip in and out accordingly. Whatsmore, by using something like Readlist, I can take the #longreads I find and turn them into ebooks for my Kindle or iBooks app.

Yes, our attention is fragmented and it is harder for marketers to earn from their consumers but we are also being bored of the short-term “sugar” rush of snackable content. We are craving something more substantial and we’ll get it where we can. Hopefully marketers can start providing high quality, compelling, interesting content that can satisfy this craving.

To paraphrase an old football saying:

If its good enough, its long enough.

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