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Content Length: Attention Spans Versus Engagement

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Over 10 years ago, I wrote that attention spans are increasing. As we worked with clients over the years, this continues to be proven despite the myth that readers, viewers, and listeners won’t stick around. Consultants continue to state that attention spans have been reduced, I call bollox. What has changed is choice – providing us the opportunity to rapidly skip over irrelevant, poor quality, or non-engaging content to find great content.

When I first started our podcast, my friends in the industry said no one would listen to more than 6 minutes… here we are years later and most podcasts are 30 to 60 minutes long. Not only that, listeners are binge listening to hours over podcasts. Heck, I drove to Florida and listened to the Serial Podcast for 8 hours on the road.

Over the weekends, my friends often joke about binge-watching entire seasons of shows! Is that a short attention span? Absolutely not. Even advertising consumption is changing. Here’s a recent study from YouTube on Video Ad Length:

The average length of ads on the YouTube Ads Leaderboard in 2014 averaged three minutes  Tweet This! – an increase of 47% vs. 2013. And none of the top ads in 2014 and 2015 were under a minute. Ben Jones, Think With Google

So for a decade, when asked “How long?”, I’ve always said long enough to tell the story and no longer. For our clients, that’s lead to us publishing less articles each week, but ensuring each article is more in-depth. For our audio clients, the goal is to record while value is provided, and then end the show. For video, the goal is to provide engaging animated or recorded videos. Don’t pay attention to how many minutes the video is, pay attention to how effective it tells the story and engages the viewer that’s watching.I believe too many marketers pay attention to bounce rates and views without analyzing the

I believe too many marketers pay attention to bounce rates and views without analyzing conversions. Let’s look at a couple scenarios:

  • You produce a brief 2-minute overview video of your products and services and it’s viewed 10,000 times with 90% of viewers watching the entire length of the video. You get a dozen inquiries to your business and close a couple of contracts worth $10,000.
  • You produce a 30-minute documentary that tells the story of your business, how it came to be, the clients that you’ve assisted, a walk-through of your processes, and provide some advice for viewers that are actionable. It’s viewed 1,000 times with 10% of viewers watching the entire length of the video. You get just a few inquiries to your business and close your first $100,000 contract.

Which one was a better strategy for your business?

I’m not knocking short content. Easily consumable content can build awareness and leave a breadcrumb trail that can garner interest over time. My point is simply that it’s not about attention spans, it’s about engagement. People often mistake attention for irrelevance. I don’t mind if people land on my page, quickly determine it wasn’t what they needed, and then leave. I do mind if people leave my page to go to a site that has better content!


© 2016 DK New Media.

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Sometimes I groan when I hear the term millennial in a marketing conversations. At our office, I’m surrounded by millennials so the stereotypes of work ethic and entitlement make me cringe. Everyone I know that age is busting their butt and optimistic at their future. I love millennials – but I don’t think they’re sprayed with magic dust that makes them too different from anyone else. The millennials I work with are fearless… much like I was at that age.


© 2016 DK New Media.

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