Short-attention-span-society – just what will we focus on?
After yet another client asked me this week for a “one / two pager…three max. I don’t need reams of stuff” rather than the lengthy proposals they once preferred, I’m again left wondering just how short our attention spans can go.
I’m all for concise. And if clients increasingly want shorter proposals, who am I to argue? As long as we remain skilled in getting right to the jugular of what they – and more importantly, their audiences – want, then slash that word count right down I say. Frees us up to get stuck into the actual work and get results.
In the same vein, I saw a tweet earlier from a new business conference in London where the speaker (client side) said “Creds presentations…what a complete waste of my life”. Clients haven’t got time to read us bleating on about ourselves – they just want to know, very quickly, what we can do for their business and what we’re particularly good at.
Twitter’s 140 characters have a lot to answer for. They’ve forced us to be more succinct – for PRs, it’s really been a blessing as it’s helped clients to refine and focus key messages. And we all know how quick we need to be with a pitch to an unforgiving journalist (of which there are lots).
Short form video content apps, such as Instagram Video (15 seconds), Snapchat (10 seconds) and Vine (6 seconds), are also a product of our shrinking attention spans. They’re being blamed for why teenagers are leaving Facebook, and if our younger interns are anything to go by, that’s probably not far from the truth.
In a culture of fast food, fast kettles, fast shopping, pop-up everything and general quick fixes, we don’t mess around anymore, do we? And those who can simultaneously tweet / email / text / Whatsapp / Skype, all while live blogging and cooking the kids’ dinners, are winning.
But we seem to be a tale of two halves. On the one side we’re multitasking maniacs, on the other we’re desperate to just do one thing – focus on something that really warrants it, prove to ourselves that our attention spans are capable of something more than just posting a like on Facebook.
Reading, for example. More than ever I love getting stuck into a big thudder book. Especially in winter (nothing better than reading a good book and having a brew when it’s dismal outside). Longer novels, despite the fact that we all claim to have no time anymore, are ironically booming.
TV also bucks the trend. Storylines that are usually tied up in an episode have expanded into season-long marathons. Take my favourites, Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, for example. No place for casual viewers here, these require concentration. Sky+ and online viewing helps matters, in that we can rewatch and make sense of things that didn’t make sense the first time round (I do this – a lot). Still didn’t help with The Wire, though. Completely over my head.
So we can commit, we do commit. We relish the opportunity, in fact. We just balance it with a load of quick fixes at the same time.
It would be wrong of us as professionals to think that everything has to be short. It doesn’t – if it’s good, relevant to that audience and tailored to how they consume information on that channel, it won’t get filtered out. It’s a generalisation to say we’ve all got attention spans of gnats. If there’s one thing you really should turn your attention to, it’s studying your audiences’ behaviour to make sure your content gets through. That’s where our audience-focused approach really pays off.
Anyway, enough of my procrastinations. I probably lost you all after the first paragraph.