What makes us pay attention?
This is the question that kicked off the recent Future of Media Conference in Palo Alto, at which present and future leaders in the industry gathered to talk about the challenges and opportunities of digital publishing.
According to keynote speaker Chas Edwards, “In media, it’s attention we’re selling.”
As herein lies the problem, as attendee Alexa Schirtzinger notes on PBS.org: “…while the average print reader will spend 25 minutes with a newspaper, the average digital reader spends just 70 seconds on a site — what Edwards calls the sad stat.”
Sad indeed, really, as digital content producers are faced with an enormous challenge to engage in a medium that seems designed to distract.
Schirtzinger summarizes the three salient pieces of advice Edwards offered for digital content producers (which also apply to print media, btw):
Tell a story
Tap into tribal urgency (i.e., make something a must-read for a particular “tribe,” whether it’s young mothers or software engineers)
Reach people in their leisure time, not their work time
All of these things are done quite easily and naturally by print media, which goes a long way to explaining the huge gap in attention time of print versus digital content.
True, digital has an advantage in the sheer volume of distraction available. Consumers have access to truly limitless content bits, and that’s another part of the problem, we believe.
How often are you interrupted when reading a print magazine? If you’re lucky, maybe just once to walk the dog. Consider the constant interruptions when reading on digital, from links that take you off the page to ads to chat messages to texts: It’s no wonder that engagement is a huge challenge in this medium.