7 Incredible Statistics about the Human Attention Span

16 febrero, 2024  

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Have you ever felt, in recent years, that your ability to concentrate has been progressively dwindling? Yeah, me too. In fact, the human attention span has become a highly talked-about subject, especially since the dawn of smartphones, which has made us slaves to doom scrolling and thus, unable to focus for longer than two minutes.

As marketers, this fact might scare us. I mean, how can you possibly appeal to an audience that doesn’t want to read more than a few sentences or watch anything that isn’t bite-sized? Don’t worry, though, I’m here to debunk some myths 😉.

In this piece, I’ll share with you 7 statistics about the average attention span and what they entail for the marketing world. Let’s get started!


1. We Don’t Have the Attention Span of a Goldfish!

Let’s start off this list with the strongest contender. You’ve probably heard a hundred times that the average human attention span is around 8 seconds, shorter than that of a goldfish, which boasts a 9-second attention span. The statistic has been making the rounds on the internet for almost a decade now, and even highly praised media sites have cited it as true… But it’s actually not!

I won’t get into the boring details, but in short, this fact comes from a shady survey from 2008, based on how quickly people left a website they didn’t like. It was cited by someone at Microsoft by mistake, and the rest is history.

It’s not like our attention spans aren’t getting shorter —they definitely are, but we haven’t reached goldfish-like levels. You don’t have to worry about making 8-second-long marketing pieces for now!


2. In Fact, We Can Focus for Hours

If this era of streaming services has taught us anything, is that the human attention span can last for hours (or, should I say, entire seasons). This is related to something closely connected to our very nature: the art of storytelling.

In marketing, just as in cinema and TV, narrating an interesting, compelling story can hook your audience effortlessly and evoke positive emotions in them. This translates into them thinking of your business as a memorable, unique brand that speaks to them and their feelings, making them laugh and inspiring them.

There’s no better way to tell a story and engage your audience than launching a video content strategy. Video is the perfect medium to convey even the most abstract of concepts, making any story come to life right before our eyes and leaving viewers wanting to know more about what you have to offer as a brand. The popularity of video has been on the rise for years, so take advantage of it!

social media engagement


3. Immersive Content Is Key

I’ve mentioned video content as the go-to to tell an eye-catching story. However, it’s not the only tool in your marketing arsenal to hook your audience and get them interested in your brand.

In August 2023, it was forecasted that more than 149 million people would listen to podcasts in North America, closely followed by 147 million in Latin America. This doesn’t come as a surprise: in a world full of screens, relaxing and listening to a screenless form of content such as podcasts can be a nice change.

If you were thinking of tapping into this content marketing strategy, you can get some great insights in Spotify’s Fan Study for Podcasters. Even if you’ve already launched a podcast, you can still learn some key metrics that’ll help distribute your content and reach your target audience with ease! Thank me later 😉.


4. The Average Human Attention Span Is Still Rather Short

Back in 2004, a team of psychologists set out to measure how much time people spend on screens and tasks at work: they would start a timer every time someone opened a document, for example, and stop it whenever they switched to a different task, like checking their email. Over the course of the past two decades, their results have varied considerably.

The original measurement yielded that the average attention span on any screen was two and a half minutes long. Years later, in 2012, it shortened to 75 seconds. Some five years ago, their last measurement averaged around 47 seconds and has been steady since.

What does this entail for marketers? Apparently, while we don’t need to appeal to a goldfish, we do need to produce shorter pieces. Enter the marketing champions: explainer videos! These videos are around a minute long and very visually appealing, so they’re the perfect tool to deliver your brand’s message in a format audiences are bound to enjoy.

UGC campaign


5. Refocusing Your Attention Takes Forever

The constant changing between tasks and screens takes a toll on the average human attention span. According to research, it takes us 25 minutes and 26 seconds to refocus and go back to the original project we were working on before we switched to a different one.

That tiredness and loss of focus while working makes sense now, doesn’t it? It may seem like we only got distracted for a few minutes, but almost half an hour is a long time when you’re at work, and it’s a heavy mental load.

What can we do to prevent our audience from leaving our content aside for almost half an hour, though? Well, as I mentioned above, the key is making your assets appealing. Whether through a nice story, an engaging podcast, or an interesting whitepaper that provides them with educational and helpful information, you need to make the value of your offer abundantly clear right off the bat.


6. Unfortunately, We’re Constantly Getting Interrupted

What I said about people needing 25 minutes to refocus isn’t necessarily a death sentence for your content efforts.

The average span of attention lasts around 10 minutes on a single project before being interrupted, either by someone else or by our brain distracting us from it. At that point, our mind begins to focus on a second project, spending 10 minutes on it before being interrupted once again. This will happen two more times until we reach project number 4, at which point we circle back to the original project we were focusing on.

It may take what seems like forever, but people do eventually come back to what they were originally paying attention to. So, even if some members of your audience start reading one of your blog posts and then spend half an hour on other things, chances are they will come back to finish it sooner or later. Don’t despair just yet!


7. Human Attention Span and Leisure Screen Time

I’ve already gone over the average human attention span and its relation to work screens and tasks. But what about the general usage of screens throughout the day? How much time do we devote to our phones, computers, and TVs when we clock out for the day?

For people aged 16 to 64 around the world, the data shows that the average daily screen time comes up to 6 hours and 37 minutes. Most of this time is spent on mobile devices: a whopping 3 hours and 46 minutes (which could be much higher, depending on the person).

If we set aside 8 hours for proper sleep and 8 hours for work, it seems like people spend the majority of their leisure time looking at screens, whether by scrolling through social media, watching videos, or reading articles. With so many hours devoted to these activities, it seems almost impossible for your audience not to come across your content at some point.

Investing in ads, creating video content, or setting up social media accounts for your business are all strategies that will get you in touch with your audience exactly where they’re most likely to find you.


Wrapping Up

If you came here asking yourself “What is the average attention span?”, then I hope you’re finishing this article feeling a bit cheered up about the answer. The human attention span is far from being like that of a goldfish!

While it may feel a little discouraging knowing that people find it difficult to focus on a single screen for more than ten minutes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t ever pay attention to your content unless it comes in explainer or podcast form. As long as you put out interesting, informative, and appealing pieces, they’re bound to catch the eye of your targets and get you higher conversions.

There’s still hope for the marketing world after all, so don’t panic! Your efforts will be rewarded sooner rather than later 😀.