Media + PR + Analytics

Look! Squirrel! What a Short Attention Span Means for Marketers

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Bill Winchester


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The other day I was on my phone searching for a bike part and then I remembered that I needed new bike shoes because the site was having a sale but I didn’t like any of those so I started searching another shoe site and that made me think, “Hey, come to think of it I need some new flip-flops,” which made me think about booking a vacation house on the beach.

This entire process took about two minutes.

Clearly, my attention span is getting…Oh, look! Squirrel!

Humans now have an average attention span of less than eight seconds.

Even a goldfish can hold a thought for nine seconds. Geesh!


Well, in 2000 our attention span was 12 seconds and then the smartphone happened and we all became junkies. Two-thirds of us are “smartphone dependent,” according to research from Microsoft Corp.

Research from Forrester also indicates smartphone users in the U.S. pick up their phones an average of 160 times a day or more. Taking into account time to sleep, that means you’re picking up your phone 10 times every hour. We spend about three hours and eight minutes a day on our phones. Sounds about right.

What does this mean for marketers?

I’ll make this quick.

First off, the mobile revolution everyone has been talking about is clearly here.

Embrace it. Because if you don’t you won’t reach people as effectively. This seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many marketers are not on this page.

Second, creating for mobile is different than creating for say, television. The aforementioned attention span needs to be taken into account. So your content either needs to be tuned to about eight seconds (you’re not targeting goldfish here), or it has to be wickedly compelling. Your stories have to be quick or wonderful, or preferably both.

Mobile screens are smaller; look at what you’re creating in real size, in real time. Look at layouts on your phone.

Mobile isn’t really reader friendly. Visual content works better.

There’s a ton more we know about this, but I’m going to stop now because I know you have to check your…Oh look! A bird!

Bill Winchester


Has actually won a bagpiping contest.

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