Finding Success in Our Short Attention-Span World

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Some recent headlines:

Fox Will Bring 6-Second Ads To TV During Teen Choice Awards
Golf for Millennials: Fast and Arcade-Style
Business Wire's 15-Minute Expert Webinar Series

I visited the new and amazing National Museum of African American History and Culture here in Washington, D.C., for the first time last week. (It's still a tough ticket and deservedly so.) Aside from being blown away by the artifacts and sheer comprehensiveness of the place, I also was reinforced with the idea that we live in such a short-take world now.

Video dominates much of the museum, but it's not like you watch all 17:50 of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech or even a five-minute showing of a young Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles. Everything is more like 20-30-40 seconds, which not only becomes overwhelming—a comedy amalgam goes from Flip Wilson to Richard Pryor to Dick Gregory—and leaves you wanting for more, but also reshapes you.

You start to expect everything else to be like that or you turn away.

And much of it is. ESPN's Sports Center has gone away from showing highlights from a complete baseball game. That could be like 45 seconds, way too long. So they now go from a great play in the 3rd inning of the Yankees game to a similar play by the Red Sox to one by the Dodgers. Who won is secondary. In football we now have the successful Red Zone Channel which just shows scoring plays.

How does this affect publishers? It has to be top of mind for any promotions you do, not to mention the actual events, webinars or eLearning. To promote its EVENTtech mega-conference, Dan Hanover of Access Intelligence cut down their SIPAward-winning 81-second promotional video into 15- and 30-second "YouTube buys and video banner ads."

"Those banners drove five times the click-thru rate for us," Hanover said. "The YouTube video ads resulted in 1,905 clicks to the website." He also replaced a full page of promotional copy for an event with "Ready. Set. Register." in big letters. Guess which one did better. I recently received an email that said, "Ready. Set. Festival." So plug in what works for you.

Most webinar attendees have good staying power, but I sense more and more multi-tasking during the webinar. That's why you hear ideas for breaking them up with questions, polling or other interactivity.

The International Ticketing Association features an Inspiration Stage at their conference. These "are venues to provide [bite-sized] learning opportunities in a collaborative and conversational environment. All sessions are 15 minutes long with 5 minutes of Q&A at the end." They have six of these sessions a day with lunch in-between.

I write more articles now with bullets, lists and Q&As, and less fanciful leads. It makes sense—we're all time-crunched and want to know quickly how something can help us. An article like this one—all grey without a list—can be scary in our not-so-brave new world.

Despite bing-bang-golf and 6-second ads, we shouldn't give up on worthwhile content that takes time to consume—whether on the screen or in-person. The answer is probably some kind of mix. The 4-hour pre-conference workshop on sales and sponsorship at SIPA Annual in June given by Ed Coburn, Ryan Dohrn and Terrie Goldstein was fantastic. But then maybe we do more speed networking—3-minute interactions; perfect!—and try some of those 15-minute sessions.

It won't always be like this. Times will change again where it will be cool not to do a list. I wrote last week about a report on online video that showed a 62% increase in click-through rates when a video thumbnail appears in an email campaign. It also showed that longer videos—more than 15 minutes—engage more. The problem is they make up just 8% of all videos.

If I want to see a longer version of a young Stevie Wonder, or full Yankee highlights, or a full-length Ted-talk that I caught a snippet of, I know it's just a couple clicks away. Though one click would be better.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…