We’ve Reached Critical Attention Span: What Now?

Posted on Mar 20, 2017 | No Comments
We’ve Reached Critical Attention Span: What Now?

It’s happened. You’ve done it. You’ve taken the most amazing photograph of you and your friends drinking wine at the edge of the Grand Canyon in front of the most perfect sunset, and there is the most perfect bald eagle flying across the frame in the background, and your hair is a little windblown but not in a bad way (for once), and you put it online and it gets a million wows, likes, and comments that sound genuinely impressed— and then a millisecond passes, and you have to get back to your life of mediocre selfies, and everybody forgets that moment on the edge of perfection.

We’ve all been there. It’s the nature of the beast that our social-media-fed online world has become. There are few of us who can retain thousands and thousands of views and engagements from month to month; but, for most of us, much less is fine. We’re accountants or bakers or teachers, and we use social media to research restaurants and dates just like everybody else— but our world is different now, too; more awesome; because someone, somewhere has just uploaded a picture of themselves at the grand canyon with a bald eagle flying by and look there it is, right next to the funniest video of children invading a BBC interview that has ever existed. And we have to mentally force ourselves to turn away and ignore the hard-wired impulse to follow new stimuli.

Abundance breaks things more than scarcity does.

Clay Shirky

We’ve reached the point of critical attention span: All the people who are hoping to get your attention long enough, and your loyalty in the long run, have to vie for a limited resource. There are only so many milliseconds in the day, after all. For businesses, especially, these milliseconds are priceless.

But for content producers of all stripes, there is reason to be tentatively optimistic about this situation. New revenue stream generators like the artist-funding crowdsource website Patreon are creating new avenues to retain both attention and revenue— viewers see something they want to follow, and they put the money down to do so. It’s like asking the world to make your channel a reality, potentially without having to even consider advertising revenue— insane, I know.

But what does it say that, among the video stars who are raking in more than $150K a year through Patreon, there are two different online shows that follow attractive young people sailing around the world?

First, it says that our wifi connections have gotten ridiculously good; and, second, it says that people are willing to pay for really specific things; and, as in the case of media darling Netflix, access to a wide range of really specific things.

This is all laid out in more detail in a post by media consultant Kevin Anderson. He gives some really on-point suggestions for ways to survive this perfect storm of unlimited access, unlimited content, within a bounded range of attention:

• Be strategic with your focus: Who is your audience, and what would they pay to see? How are you going to entice them to drop that nickel?
• Learn fast: If something is working, figure out why and make more of that— if not, just stop.
• Figure out multiple ways to make money doing what you do, and start doing that.

The competition is fierce, friends— but if you can be consistently excellent, and focused like a laser on your core audience, you will thrive amid a universe of change.

Post by Ben.

Photo courtesy Eric Drost via FlickrCC.