The Attention Span Problem – What Does That Mean for Inbound Marketing?

The Attention Span Problem – What Does That Mean for Inbound Marketing?


The success of an Inbound Marketing strategy depends a lot on the quality of the content: Is it tailored to the proper buyer persona, is it interesting enough, does it provide unique value and is it written well? And does it fit in your reader’s attention span?

How Long Is Your Audience’s Attention Span Really?

Well, given that the average attention span of a gold fish is longer (9 seconds) than the one of an internet surfing adult in 2013 (8 seconds), this provides a challenge.

So you have less than 8 seconds to get a reader engaged! Pew Research Center agrees: “The current generation of internet consumers live in a world of “instant gratification and quick fixes” which leads to a “loss of patience and a lack of deep thinking.”

It is not surprising, considering how the internet has changed how we consume information and communicate. Some reasons for shortened attention spans are:

  • The expectation of clients and coworkers that one is always reachable leads to great distractions: the average worker checks their emails 30 times per hour!
  • In addition, 17.4% of web traffic has come through mobile, representing more than a 6% increase since 2012, according to Statista.
  • Delivery of content in bite-size forms that is being spoon-fed to consumers.

Which is reflected in the explosive following of Mashable, Upworthy and Huffington Post. Their success relies heavily on what has become known as link bait: A collection of related content with a headline designed to attract links and clicks. It is usually quickly digestible content that entertains and makes great viral material.

How does this affect your content marketing efforts?

Does this mean you should throw all your long content pieces over board and cater to tiny attention spans?

No, not entirely. Even if you market to teenagers, if your topic is fascinating enough to them and they have a sincere interest in learning more about it, the content can be several thousand words long.

That does not mean you have to exclude link baiting articles completely from your repertoire of content marketing strategies. It is a great opportunity to turn old content into new links.

But I also believe that there will be consequences at some point (a.k.a. search engine algorithm that penalizes or downgrades) to web sites who only use link bait and rewarmed or curated content.

Bottom line:

Keep the attention span of your audience in mind. As long as you provide consistent value and provide content that fits your buyer persona’s attention span, you will always win in the long-term.

What audience do you cater to? What content form and length do they engage with best?

This article was originally published on June 30, 2016 on the Inspired Global Marketing blog.

Asif Ismail is NYCRAMA's VP of News. He has a background in business, marketing, and branding. Find out more about Asif on LinkedIn.

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