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Changing Media Changing Attention Spans

by apowaleny

A question came up the other day with a friend of mine who asked me “who writes letters anymore?” Thinking about it with the exception of Christmas cards and a few notes on birthdays I realized that I in fact don’t. It’s not just that I do not write letters, it’s my attention span, like countless others, is unwilling if not incapable of sitting down and writing a concrete thought on a piece of paper.

The New York Times recently wrote a terrific, if not horrifying profile on the affects of technology on humans. It concluded that our brains were not built to multitask, in fact, just 3 percent of the population is. According to the Times, those folks are deemed “supertaskers.” As a result, our society has been changed in ways we never could have imagined. A 2008 study found that people consumed about “three times as much information each day as they did in 1960.” And that “computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour, new research shows.”

This information, while shocking, isn’t completely surprising.

Think about it: e-mail, cell phones, iPads, MP3 players and yes the Internet have all contributed to a society that is transfixed on the need and want of being busy. People more so than ever crave information and the “dopamine squirt” resulting from the new information coming at your fingertips can be addictive.
Understanding people’s attention spans can be helpful for how political and communications consultants communicate to our audience, the voters.

Jon Henke, a Partner here at CRAFT wrote back in March “we read differently online. The mental cost imposed by marketing language is just too high” and that “online communication has to be fast, personal and authentic.” Point is, whether it’s online communications or direct mail and TV unless you are targeting your message and doing it in a way that reaches people quickly and in a catchy way you’re losing.

Political consultants have to always be thinking about engaging voters in a way that is conscious of their attention spans, or lack there of. Doing so means being fast, engaging and edgy if need be. Here at CRAFT we’ve created dynamic advertising content. These ads catch viewer’s attention by tying the ad directly to the viewer and reminding them how it affects them. This is how you keep your audiences attention not by using cheap gimmicks.

The challenge going forward is finding new and creative solutions for connecting with an increasingly attention deficit audience. And with greater media platforms arriving day by day expect the audience to be even harder to engage. Point is this: if you blink you may just be missing the next big thing.