Average Attention SpanOops. I forgot!

On October 9, 1999 I married the love of my life. The following day we were whisked off to beautiful Hawaii for an amazing honeymoon trip we still talk about now almost 15 years ago.

2 days into our trip, I was videotaping the sunset and noticed on the date stamp on the old camcorder screen that it was October 12th – OMG I forgot it was my birthday!

How could I forget my own birthday? (Thankfully, it was mine and not my wife’s!)

But it’s easy to see how this happened. I had gotten married, spent almost a whole day on a plane to fly half-way around the world. I landed in a tropical paradise and I guess part of my brain just checked out. This was 1999. Before Facebook. Before Twitter. Before iPhones with reliable cell service.

Linkedin launched in June, 2003. Facebook launched in 2004. YouTube launched in 2005. Twitter in 2006. And now we also have Pinterest. And Instagram. And Snapchat. All of these mechanisms are pushing content across a world that now also sends millions of texts per second.

Our Average Attention Span Is Now 8 Seconds – 1 Second Less Than A Goldfish

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. This is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish. That’s right, goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds – 1 second more than you and I.

According to the source, this is due to “external stimulation” like all that content marketing we’re producing and distributing across all the social media channels. The research states:

“Attention span is the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted. Most educators and psychologists agree that the ability to focus attention on a task is crucial for the achievement of one’s goals. It’s no surprise attention spans have been decreasing over the past decade with the increase in external stimulation.”

Additional Statistics on Attention Spans:

  • 25% of teenagers report forgetting important details about their friends and family
  • 7% of people forget their own birthdays from time to time
  • The average office worker checks their email 30 times every hour
  • Typical mobile users check their phones more than 150 times per day (Mary Meeker)
  • Content on the internet tripled between 2010 and 2013
  • Social media sharing has doubled from 2011 to 2013

The Content Marketing Imperative #MPOMMA #IWNY

This was one of the key stats that really seemed to resonate with the audience I spoke to this morning at #MPOMMA #IWNY.

I was thrilled to kick off the day as the opening keynote. And although I was competing with the mayor of NY, Bill de Blasio on another #IWNY stage, the audience filled the Media Post Theater at OMMA Native #MPOMMA.

My job was to set the stage for the discussion on Native Advertising.

I asked “Why are we talking about Native Advertising?” And the answer is because digital, social and mobile access has changed the world. Marketing has become highly ineffective because consumers can now tune us out.

What do they tune in to? Stories. Stories that connect on a human and emotional basis.

I also provided an overview of the journey we’ve taken and some of the native advertising we’ve tested.

Check out my slides here:

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook  and Google+ or  Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Head of Strategy for the leading content marketing platform, NewsCred. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email


  1. Tony said…

    We have shorter attention span, but we consume more information overall. Therefore, I don’t know of social media’s short attention span is good or bad for us…

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Tony, I don’t think it is good or bad. It just is an outcome of our desire for progress in all aspects of our lives. I am optimistic at the minds ability to deal with everything and think we will continue to find ways to thrive in spite of some of these consequences of digital life.

  2. Robbert van der Vleuten said…

    Interesting article Michael! I’m very curious what’s going to happen in the future… With content marketing but also the effects on the human being in general.

    At least I see some serious concentration issues coming at us, or actually they are already here!

    I expect that people are gonna act against this over-stimulation in one way or another.

    Buying hard copy books again?

    • Michael Brenner said…

      I saw a study this week about a huge decline in the number of people who reported that they actually read a real book in the past month. Crazy!

  3. Ryan Biddulph said…

    Huge fan of detaching from social for extended periods Michael….so I can out do the goldfish lol….nice post!

  4. Mayank Tandon said…

    Future of content is very likely be governed by images and graphics. Text doesn’t seem to have a sustainable future. Great blog Michael

  5. Heather Bartel said…

    Michael – Great stuff! I fall victim to the Goldfish Syndrome myself and purposely unplug so I can get important work completed.

    For content marketers in general, I would love to see “us” create more valuable content; not just produce more. The format is obviously important (visual over text-heavy) but I believe it all starts with knowing your audience and what they care about to elicit an emotional connection or response. Again, great post!

    • Michael Brenner said…

      I agree Heather, I try to do that too!

      And yes we need to create quality stuff that people actually want. Listening and watcing and learning what your audience wants is definitely the key!

      Thanks for your support!

  6. Will said…

    I was never able to keep up with social media. I guess this is a good thing, so I can still retain a longer attention span than a goldfish’s.

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