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Q&A: Prezi discusses how publishers can tackle evolving attention spans

A study by Microsoft famously claimed that the “human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish.” This revelation caught on – it’s catchy, shocking, and in an age of where reading takes second chair to social media, appeared pretty likely. Yet, if that’s the case, why are people managing to binge-watch their favourite series for over six hours, stay tuned in to numerous episodes of a podcast, or continue to send complex non-fiction books to the bestseller charts?

In its recent State of Attention Report, presentation platform Prezi found that people were able to give their undivided attention to the content that really matters to them more today than they were able to just a year ago.

WNIP caught up with Nadjya Ghausi, VP Marketing at Prezi, on how publishers should approach the evolving attention spans of today’s audiences, both in terms of cutting through distractions and using the right tools and techniques to engage them.

Attention can mean different things to different people. How do you define attention within the context of your report?

We define attention as staying engaged and focusing your mind on something. It’s the state people are in when they are so focused on what they’re doing that they aren’t easily distracted. For publishers, marketers, and advertisers, it is clearly crucial that their audiences pay attention to, and engage with, the content they develop. Yet, as attention spans evolve, this becomes increasingly difficult to achieve.

In fact, 42% of respondents in our State of Attention Report said that, compared to a year ago, they have become much more selective about the content they consume. And despite what it sounds like, that’s the good news — people’s attention can be captured for far longer periods of time than originally expected, as long as content is presented to them in the right way.

So what does “the right way” look like when it comes to content creation?

People are having increasingly positive responses to content that motivates, inspires, and holds their attention – and a range of factors contribute to that. In our research, we found that content covering an “interesting” topic is no longer enough to hold the attention of an audience (after all, what’s interesting to someone is just as subjective as what ‘paying attention’ looks like). We discovered that one of the golden rules for creating truly engaging content is a compelling narrative for that content, coupled with captivating visuals.

Another key driver of sustained audience engagement is interactivity. Brands that have brought interactive elements to the forefront of their campaigns and incorporated them into their presentations are already seeing improved engagement with their customers.

Interaction demands that an audience stays tuned-in to the content they’re consuming, and that they provide input. This allows the content to provide more value and help brands to engage with people in an entirely new way.

We know that consumers are now more open to exploring emerging technologies, like Augmented Reality (AR), which provides a new and exciting interactive experience for them to explore – but only if the content presented to them is just as exciting, and crafted around a strong narrative.

Have you found that these technological advancements have affected consumers’ attention spans?

Technology has made it easier than ever before for us to stay hyper-connected. We all have instant access to multiple streams of information, a 24-hour news cycle, and numerous social media channels that have fundamentally changed the way we consume content. As a result, people now tend to multitask more and are easily distracted by the constant pings of incoming messages. In fact, our report found that 83% of business professionals multitask during meetings. This makes it trickier than ever before for brands to cut through in crowded markets.

Some organisations are trying to get ahead of the curve by using technologies like AI and machine learning to provide content to consumers on relevant platforms – but they’re making a fundamental mistake. Our research has found that a strong narrative and visual storytelling are ultimately the key drivers of meaningful audience engagement, no matter what platform this content is being presented on. Simply deploying content on the latest emerging technology or social media platform isn’t going to generate the kind of meaningful engagement publishers and brands need.

What do you recommend content professionals do next time they are working on a piece of content for their respective audiences?

For publishers, marketers, and advertisers, it is essential to build a human connection with their audiences to ensure a successful, long-term relationship. There’s a lot of debate in the industry on how to go about this most effectively, but in our opinion, compelling, engaging, and visually-stimulating content yields the best results. If content professionals keep this in mind, and continue to use innovative solutions to help them create a strong visual narrative, they’ll be set for greater, longer lasting success.

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