Reporters’ Attention Spans Plummet Radically

8 Seconds?!

If you can get 8 seconds out of a reporter you’ll be lucky.

According to a recent fishy fact, the average human today has an
attention span of only 8.25 seconds, a drop of 3.75 seconds since 2000.

At the turn of the last millennia humans were purported to have had a whopping attention span of 12 seconds. But now, in 2017 at just 8.25 seconds, we can’t even concentrate as long as a bug-eyed goldfish, which apparently has an attention span of 9 seconds.

I say apparently, because no one knows for sure what the real numbers are, but it’s a lot of fun to roll these stats around and to think that a fish can beat us at a staring competition.

BTW, goldfish and reporters don’t have eyelids, so how’re we going to know if they blink?

The real danger here is, if you think a reporter will pay attention to you for 8 seconds, I have another hook for you to bite. It has been argued that if Microsoft advertising executives would have run their attention test on a journalist they would have seen it drop to -2 seconds. Yep, you read it right, that’s a minus sign in front of the 2.

Even before a reporter shows up at your door she’s outgoldfishing you. As soon as you open your mouth she’s already thinking about the next question, and her attention span for what you’re currently saying is hovering at around 1 second, unless of course you say something juicy and hand her a headline-worthy sound bite. Then, all of a sudden her attention span has jumped to eight hours, or maybe even eight months depending on what you said.

8 seconds would be a miracle! When a reporter has a bead on you the machinegun litany of questions come so fast and furious it would make even a mind like Einstein’s quiver.

Paying attention during an interview
is one of a spokesperson’s biggest challenges.

Did she just ask me if I was texting when my train jumped the tracks in the middle of the city, and was that before or after she asked if I was drinking at my birthday bash the night before?” Pay attention man! You’re life and career depends on it. Send in the Guppy, err, I mean the goldfish. Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention – a fish is a fish right?

Attention span is both objective and subjective, and actually quite hard to define scientifically. The Microsoft advertising team that ran the test was trying to figure out how long someone would look at an online ad before they bailed, which is quite different than how news media interpreted the report. News companies saw the stat, and instead of reporting it in proper context, they thought they’d have a bit of fun and make it a little provocative so readers would focus on their story a little longer, because apparently we have a shorter attention span this year than last year.

Here’s the good news; your attention span can extend beyond 8 seconds if you train your brain. According to common theory, our attention spans have decreased because of technology. If you have any age in your bones you know our world is hustling and bustling faster than it was a decade ago, and it makes sense that if we are always in a rush our attention spans will suffer. Fast food, smart-phones, and auto-checkout at the grocers add to a long list of things that make us impatient and lose focus. All we seem to want to do anymore is move on to the next nano-moment of excitement. “Oh joy, a new type of ear buds – without a cord. If I would have just paid more attention I’d remember where I left the left one.”

We have to train ourselves to reclaim some of the inherent skills a modern life has washed away. FYI, I’m making fun of this problem because I know humor helps people focus.

So lesson one is … organize your thoughts and RELAX! You’re welcome.

It’s not a joke though to have a low attention span. Among other reasons, it can be a career killer. Staying focused is important, so if you want to improve your attention span, make sure you are MOTIVATED. Give yourself a reason to stay focused.

Also make sure you know what you’re talking about. Do your HOMEWORK so you’re not drifting off wondering if what you just told the reporter will land you in the headlines.

Multitasking is for machines so ENGAGE with reporters and listen carefully to what they say. Give them respect and all your time without distraction – like your phone vibrating.

BREATHE too. You need oxygen in your brain
in order to think clearly and pay attention.

My colleagues and I have a few other secrets in our tackle box
you can use to help you focus while being interviewed.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need help figuring out
how to bait the hook and outfox the goldfish.

We have enough fish food for everyone.

I’m Jeff Ansell,
Be well

Media Strategies Training

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