It shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise that the average human attention span is reducing, and rapidly at that. Researchers have been discussing the decline for years, using the inevitable goldfish comparison as a benchmark. But just how much have our attention spans declined? And more importantly, what does that mean for the way we position our design and marketing messages?

In a post on Facebook’s marketing blog, the Group Head of FMCG at Facebook, Reynold D’Silva explored the notion of reduced attention spans, noting that researchers from the Statistic Brain Research Institute have found that the average human attention span has dropped by 33% since the year 2000 – now at just 8.25 seconds. The decline is largely attributed to increased mobile usage, a finding which is supported by various other organisations, with some suggesting that the mere presence of a mobile reduces our ability to focus on the task at hand.

These findings are not particularly surprising. Smartphones and advances in connectivity have changed the way we live, the way we work and the way we consume media. In the modern world, there’s rarely a need for our attention not to be engaged in something.

But that constant need has also made us more scattered – causing our focus to shift rapidly. We no longer need to sit through cumbersome ads or wait for the best bits of a web page to appear. We can skip what we want, whenever we want.

The impact of smartphones has been huge – larger, even, than many people even realise. In many countries, smartphone penetration is now in the majority, with some regions above 70%, and some close to 90%. Given the increasing adoption, and the correlation between take-up and the reduction in attention spans, it makes sense that organisations need to take into account the decline in audience focus when crafting their outreach messages.

Rapid developments in technology and data have altered user behavior, and as such our approaches need to change in-step. Doing what you’ve always done will no longer cut it in the modern digital landscape – we need to recognise the different ways in which the people of today are consuming media and work to meet them on their journey. It’s also important to keep in mind that whilst there is still room for long form content, the value of immediate impact cannot be underestimated.

Either way, data is showing that we need to be paying close attention to user behaviour in the modern world.

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