I know … I have to talk fast.
Recent evidence published by Statisticbrain.com indicates that the average attention span of humans is eight seconds as of 2013. That means if you read this article’s headline, subhead and this paragraph, I probably just lost you.
Thank you for sticking with me. For those hearty souls that are still reading along, here are some more statistics from their findings, which add a little perspective:
- The average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds. That means we’ve lost four seconds in 14 years.
- The average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. That means we’re now sub-goldfishian.
- The percentage of people that occasionally forget their own birthdays is seven percent. That means some of us are walking through a lot of doorways.
For the record, I’ve never forgotten my birthday. Although I’m now at the age where I would like to forget my birthday.
Ground control to Major Tom
Why are we such space cadets? Too much stimuli, apparently, is eroding our attention spans. The children of the television age begat the children of the internet age and in the process we’ve lost our minds’ ability to … something or other. Blah, blah, blah. You’re not reading anyway.
<Note to editor: insert cat or other cute animal meme here or no one will continue to read. The internet has spoken.>
Statisticbrain.com has even more startling news when it comes to our internet browsing habits.
- Percent of page views that last less than 4 seconds: 17%.
- Percent of page views that lasted more than 10 minutes: 4%.
- Percent of words read on web pages with 111 words or less: 49%.
- Percent of words read on an average (593 words) Web page: 28%.
As a frequent writer / editor / publisher of Web content, it behooves me to pay close attention to these trends. The message is clear: if you can grab someone’s attention online, you likely won’t have it for long. If you write long, expressive copy with 600 or more words, be aware that only about 28% of it will get read. The question is, which 28%?
Heat mapping of Web pages show what internet marketers and content producers have come to understand: people do not read Web content — they scan it. That is why this article includes not only a headline and a subhead, but also three additional sub-headings, two images and two bulleted lists. If this article were just one long block of text — even if broken up by paragraphs — you would not have read this far.
As you can see from the colors that mark where users most often focused on this sample Web page, they focus on the top left headlines, images and other formatted sub-headings. If a user were reading top-to-bottom, like we read books, the colors would be more uniform and widespread.
Our growing-ever-shorter attention spans make us impatient readers — we typically get to only about one-fourth (28%) of the content on any given average-length (~600 words) Web page, or maybe as high as 49% reading density if we keep the message to around 100 words or less.
I dunno. That still sounds like it would take more than eight seconds.
Julian Rogers is a writer, editor, community manager and marketing communications consultant for high-achieving businesses — from solo entrepreneurs to large private companies. Find out what he’s thinking about on his blog: mrturophile.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
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