BREAKING NEWS

Global Attention Span is getting shorter by the day

Are you exhausted to keep up with all the things happening around you? In the age of Twitter, Netflix, Snapchat, Tik Tok and numerous news apps bombarding you with content and reactions over an incident spreading on the Internet like wildfire, keeping up with the information overflow can be quite a strenuous activity, leading to a decrease in your attention span. 
 
An elaborated analysis published in Nature Communications, evaluated 43 billion tweets and analysed the top 50 trending hashtags in the world every hour on the hour, from 2013 to 2016. They calculated the time span for hashtags that remained popular and found that in 2013, a hashtag remained in the top 50 list for an average of 17.5 hours, but the figure had dropped to 11.9 hours by 2016. 
 
Going by this analysis, it is evident that the global attention span is decreasing as there is more content produced today than ever. “That means, for example, in the 1980s, a blockbuster film — defined as a steep increase in ticket sales from one week to another — was released on average every four months, but that time has shrunk to between one and two weeks in 2018,” reveals the study. 
 
Not only are we becoming interested in more trends quickly but we are also losing interest in the same content more swiftly. Apparently, the only content that doesn’t increase in popularity is Wikipedia and scientific research papers.   
 
According to co-author of the report, Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, this trend could be challenging for companies to adapt if they are looking to make a profit in an attention-driven economy. “The problem, as I see it, is that there are aspects of experiencing rapidly incoming news that are exciting and exhilarating. Any site that sells ‘slow news’ needs to deal with the fact that it is challenging, difficult, and sometimes, boring in order to understand a complex problem,” he added.
 
In this world of shrinking and distracted engagement, one direct implication could be on journalists facing difficulty in conducting in-depth research for news stories due to pressure to break stories first and the fact that news stories have shorter shelf life. 
 
According to Ron Feemster, professor of Journalism at the Florida SouthWestern State college, as readers try to manage their social media consumption, they must examine and reject posts quickly in an effort to find the stories they really want to read. 
 
“When it comes to the shorter time that readers search or post a hashtag before moving on, I think journalists just have to live with the changes. New events crowd out older ones quickly. Deadlines have grown shorter as readers expect analysis and background faster,” he explains, adding that “the key thing as a journalist remains forming a relationship with readers and becoming a trusted source.
 
The Internet flattens the appearance of outlets. On a phone, a tweet from the New York Times can look the same as one from an individual person with a few thousand followers. Readers can’t tell from the post that one post was vetted by a team of experienced editors and the other was not. We need to make it clear to readers that some information has a better pedigree than others.”
 
Shorter attention span among consumers is also challenging brands to provide content that is creative and personal. “Brands need to weave stories which are contextually relevant. From a consumer perspective, finding their interests and relating them to the brand is the key,” adds Mohit Arora, Marketing Director at Mars Pet Nutrition. 
 
Additionally, with digital platforms becoming a crucial part of marketing, organisations need to make smart use of these platforms. “The advantage with digital platforms is that they allow for two-way consumption of information which establishes direct connection between the brand and the consumer,” adds Arora. 
 
Marketing today includes social media as a significant platform where short edits or videos have become popular. Organisations disrupt a consumer either through 6 to 10 second videos either as a reminder or with a 1 to 3 minute visually compelling story about the brand. Therefore, despite the noise of increased scrolling speeds and fragmented focus, the key to holding consumers’ attention is to make message engaging and useful. 

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