Our Digital Attention Span Is Incredibly Brief

Hey there!

When I worked at America Online back in the 90’s, we used to run focus group studies to see how members used our service.

Back then, we were surprised to learn just how quickly people lost focus and were distracted by anything other than the AOL service.

You’d be surprised how times have, literally, changed.

Hope this helps!


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Raw YouTube Captioning

hey there it’s David H Lawrence the 17th
and I just got an email from a viewer
named Kirsten who asked a very simple
question she says David how come your
videos are only about seven minutes long
I want to know more make them longer
please okay lots of exclamation points
in that email but here’s the thing when
I used to work at America online I
worked at America online I built all if
for those of you that are on America
Online you know how a new window would
come up with a new area every time you
clicked on a link and open things up
well I was one of those guys that made
those areas in particular I made rich
media areas you know we don’t even call
it that anymore we don’t
there’s nothing spectacularly strange
and new about audio and video but in
those days oh my gosh I mean text and
pictures was about it but then when we
added audio and video I you know that
was one of the biggest events ever at
America Online and I was one of the
people that helped make those areas but
we would do focus groups and we would
bring in some users from America online
and we’d sit them down in a room
surrounded by cameras and observers with
one-way mirrors and we would just watch
them use the service and we’d see how
certain areas were faring and we would
also watch their behavior and it was
amazing how quickly they would be
distracted by other things going on
around them there were no cell phones
per se in those days they were still
kind of bricky and there were certainly
weren’t smartphones but lots of other
things would distract them their watch
or the person next to them or something
else going on on the computer and what
we found amazingly was that it took no
less than on average five to seven
minutes to distract someone
and I remember taking away from that
experience just how fleet how fleetly
fleeting fleeting how fleeting and brief
our attention spans were especially when
it came to digital stuff because it
really takes a lot of work to focus in
on that screen and just really pay
attention to what’s going on right and
so recently the remainder of a o L you
know which is basically huffington post
with send us a comment form you know
they’re not what they used to be but i
have some friends that still work there
and they ran of another focus group just
to see how long people paid attention
and they found that nothing has changed
the time is exactly the same five six
seven minutes that’s it and then you’re
off to something else if we gathered
your if they gathered your attention to
begin with so learning that way back
then which is like 25 years ago
and knowing now that it’s pretty much
exactly the same it informs how long i
make these videos it informs how long i
stay on the phone with people it informs
how long i take to to explain important
things it informs how long i make each
one of my lessons for VoD go go each one
of the sections that I do for the a CX
masterclass I I really pay attention to
how long I have with someone before it’s
hard for them to keep at it
you know to stick to it so what I’d
rather do is to do a series of videos
that are nicely chunked that don’t take
up a lot of your time and it also gives
you the opportunity to go do other
things to listen to somebody else’s
video or watch somebody else’s video or
listen to somebody else’s podcast you
know there’s a there’s a reason why
people that do really long podcasts and
by really long I mean you know 45
minutes an hour two hours there’s a
reason why not all of their listeners or
ever get to the end or even the second
half of those podcasts and it’s because
they have other things going on now you
may say to yourself well how come you
know you go to a movie theater and and
you you watch for two hours because they
remove all the distractions in fact you
get kind of upset when there’s
distractions when somebody’s on their
phone or somebody’s talking or you know
god knows what that couple over there is
doing you know you get upset you don’t
want there to be distraction same thing
with television and with with with radio
shows they constantly tease you about
what’s upcoming so anyway that’s the
answer to your question that’s why these
videos are the length that they are
because I want to share with you things
that are brief and to the point and that
are usable and that you want to be a
subscriber for and the next video that I
do is gonna tell you about a woman that
wrote me and told me off about telling
her to unsubscribe from the list and
that was a very short moment I had no
distractions there whatsoever but anyway
I want to make sure things are useful
and I think giving you that kind of
chunk does it so tell me what do you
think about this is this news to you is
this something that that you how long is
your attention span how long before
you’re interrupted by something else
going on the kids or the the pets or or
your phone or who knows what all is this
something that you’ve noticed that our
attention spans are so short leave me a
comment on vo to go go comm and sign up
for the list on vo to go go comm the
sixty Seconds list there I have been
saying sign up for the videos but I
realize that if you just sign up for the
videos on YouTube that’s all you’re
gonna get is the videos and I’ve got so
many good things going on at vo to go go
on the list that’s really where I’d love
to have you including these videos so
sign up for my list and if you want to
get the latest video that I’ve done go
ahead and click on that frame and
YouTube will play it for you that’s what
we want to do alright I’m David H
Lawrence’s 17 thank you so much for
watching and I will talk to you tomorrow.

4 Responses to Our Digital Attention Span Is Incredibly Brief

  1. Stuart Gauffi July 3, 2019 at 6:21 am #

    First, kudos for using the word “literally” correctly (as well as “fleeting”). Second, I think there’s a– Ooh! I’ve got to check this Instagram…

    Seriously, though–good data to have, David. Thanks.

  2. Jeff Hoyt July 3, 2019 at 10:40 am #

    So true about attention spans, David. In fact, these days I use a “got it” system for listening or watching just about anything. Once I feel I’ve “got it,” I’m out. Exceptions would include: a) I just happen to have the time to spare, or b) the content is so compelling, I simply must see it through to the end, or c) I judge the content as important enough that I don’t want to risk missing some key point. For everything else, I watch or listen till I’ve “got it” and then I’m good.

  3. Judy July 3, 2019 at 12:58 pm #

    Thank you for keeping these videos brief!

    It has nothing to do with a short attention span, thank you very much. I rarely commit to any kind of video blog or podcast because I am simply not going to commit that kind of time. Usually they are chatty and rambling and the actual content could have been written in a short (or even not-so-short) blog or article I can take in on my own time.

    I have several things I am studying, learning, or just trying to keep up-to-date on and the bar is high for meriting a share of my attention. And video or audio longer than 20 minutes NEVER makes that cut.

    Again, thank you.

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