4 Ways to Reach Consumers With Short Attention Spans

by Trevor Willingham, Copywriter - 07/20/16


When you have a few minutes of spare time, what do you do? Do you automatically reach for your smartphone and check your email or take a quick look at your Facebook news feed? More than three-quarters of people ages 18 to 24 do, and experts hypothesize that this easy access to instant information could be influencing our declining attention spans—for both digital and print content.

A 2015 Microsoft study reported that the average human attention span fell from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight measly seconds in 2013. If you’re keeping score, that puts mankind below the common goldfish—which, according to numerous cited statistics, has an attention span of about nine seconds. As a marketer, this means you need to embrace a new way of creating content to attract the attention of consumers.

Whether you’re writing an article for print or digital, take these steps to ensure your message still reaches the absent-minded masses.

1. Keep Content Short and Simple 

All content should be three things: useful, helpful, and relevant. But with readers scrolling the web or scanning the printed page for articles that attract their attention, it’s critical you keep the message simple and succinct. Whether you’re writing for print or digital, use plenty of engaging subheads, charts, infographics, and pullout elements. The very last thing people will read on a page will be the body of your article, so use these multiple entry points to get them engaged enough to want to continue reading.

2. Get to the Point 

When it comes to digital content, Chartbeat research about online reader habits revealed that nearly 33 percent of article readers spend 15 seconds or fewer on an article. Let readers know early on whether or not they need to stick around.

If people don’t find value fast, they won’t stay to provide you with a second chance.

3. Don’t Just Tell, Show

Whether or not you believe that a picture is worth 1,000 words, there is no denying that it is easier for the brain to consume and remember a single image over a list of 1,000 words. Chartbeat says that while most visitors to a site who read your articles will read about 60 percent of your article content, 100 percent will see your photos. Make your photos engaging enough to entice visitors to read your content.

At True North Custom, we could sit here and regurgitate statistic after factoid that points to how beneficial it is to populate your content with visuals, but that would do very little good considering Hubspot has already collected 37 stats that deal with visual content marketing.

4. Don’t Leave Them Waiting

No matter what type of content you’re pushing out, don’t keep anyone waiting. Another Chartbeat study revealed that about 10 percent of readers on a website won’t scroll down the page at all, so they’re looking for engagement at the top. Make your decks and ledes engaging, whether you’re writing for print or digital. Content is everywhere at the push of a button or the flip of a page. If consumers feel it’s taking too long to get to the relevant information, they will go somewhere else to find it.

Want more tips for best practices for reaching your target audience?

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