Writing for Shrinking Attention Spans
It’s no secret that people’s attention spans are shrinking. It’s unclear exactly how long this has been going on, but the last two decades have been dramatic. If you look at studies from 2000, they found that the average attention span was about 12 seconds long. If you’re already thinking that sounds shorter than you may have expected, it’s worth noting that more recent studies put it at just 8.25 seconds. It’s fallen by nearly a third in just over 20 years. It’s now below the level of the goldfish, which clocks in right around 9 seconds. No matter how you break down the stats, it’s clear that people cannot concentrate on any one thing for very long.
How Do You Address This in Your Content?
With blog posts and other types of online content, you need to adjust your focus. You have to write for your audience, with an understanding of their limitations. Below are three tactics to employ.
This often means dividing your content. If you use lists with bullet points, they break up the blocks of text. They also give people quick information with short sentences or even fragments. Readers who are skimming the page for around 8 seconds will get more out of this content than longer text.
You can also break up the content with headings and subheaders. Ideally, these should contain useful information and pique readers’ interest. They may only scan the subheadings because they’re not reading for long, but you can use those to draw them in.
Making It Engaging
Finally, always remember that your content has a lot of competition. The person reading it probably has dozens of apps on their phone. They are thinking about work, family life and a lot more. If your content isn’t helpful and engaging, you’re going to lose their attention to the competition quickly.
A New Normal
It’s unlikely that attention spans are going to shift and begin growing longer again. This is just the new normal for humanity as technology influences how we develop. Be sure that you have excellent content that works for your readers.