Consumer Attention Spans Survey: Many Lose Focus at Around 8 Seconds

Among the many changes that technology has brought about, it seems that consumer attention spans might be getting shorter. A recent report by Microsoft found that consumer attention spans have decreased from about 12 seconds to about 8 seconds in recent years. The increased use of smartphones, social media and multitasking with different screens seems to have contributed to those shorter attention spans. Where people used to sit down and watch YouTube videos, they now just watch ten second clips on Snapchat. And instead of reading full articles, some just get their information from 140 character tweets. But how would consumers characterize their own attention spans? How many agree that they now give certain types of content less of a chance before deciding to either leave or dive deeper?

consumer attention spans

Consumer Attention Spans

In Ask Your Target Market’s latest survey, consumers generally characterized their attention spans for various types of media at around 8 seconds. So they tend to decide whether or not they’re interested in a certain piece of content, whether it’s a video or a blog post, within that time frame. In general, videos and articles tended to hold people’s attention for slightly longer. But video advertisements and TV commercials were more likely to lose consumers’ attention early. Audio content, visual ads and social media posts were somewhere in the middle.

In general, 18% of respondents feel that their attention span for various types of content has actually increased over the past ten years. However, 45% believe that their attention spans have gotten shorter over the last ten years. And 37% don’t believe there has been any change in that time period.

Grabbing Attention

There are, of course, several different ways for businesses to better their chances of getting consumers’ attention. But personalizing that content in some way or at least making sure that the content is relevant seems to be the best route; 53% of respondents said that they are more likely to pay attention to content that they feel is relevant to them. 50% said that utilizing eye-catching visuals is a good way for brands to grab consumers’ attention. 47% think that using straightforward messaging is the best route. 24% appreciate messages that come from brands or people that they already trust. And just 17% think that shock value is a good way to grab consumers’ attention.

Common Distractions

Overall, 71% of respondents agreed that the increased use of smartphones has shortened people’s attention spans. However, just 37% think that smartphone use has shortened their attention spans. 63% think that social media has shortened people’s attention spans. But just 38% think that social media has shortened their own attention spans. 50% said that they often get distracted by other forms of media when they’re already consuming another form of media. And 46% said that they have consumed media from multiple different screens (like using their smartphones while watching TV) within the past day.

However, 53% of respondents said that if a piece of media catches their attention early, they are likely to stick with it. Geico, Apple, Progressive, Budweiser, Nike, Coke, Target and Samsung were all brands mentioned by respondents as having ads or other types of content that do a good job of grabbing their attention.

Key Takeaways

In general, it seems that brands can’t really expect consumers to pay attention to their ads or content for longer than about 8 seconds without doing something to really grab their interest. Despite widespread denial on the part of consumers, shorter attention spans are a big factor in media consumption today. To overcome that hurdle, creating content or media that in some way relates to those consumers seems to be the most effective route. However, utilizing powerful visuals or being straightforward with messaging can also be effective. But if you’re going to do those things, you have to do them early, and utilize personalization wherever possible. If consumers have to wait more than eight seconds to see or hear how a message affects them in some way, they aren’t likely to stick around and pay attention to what you have to say.

You can view the complete survey results in the widget below and be sure to click “Open Full Report” to take advantage of all the chart and filter options.

Photo Credit: Mobile Worker by Michael Coghlan under CC BY 2.0

What do you want to know? If you need some consumer insights on a particular topic, let us know in the comments below and we’ll consider it for an upcoming survey post.

Results were collected on May 21 via AYTM’s online survey panel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Pilon
Anne Pilon brings 3 years experience to AYTM as a blogger and journalist. She has a degree in journalism and marketing communications from Columbia College in Chicago and enjoys writing about business, marketing, social media, and art.