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Squirrel! Something Shiny!
July 20, 2020
By Brett Grischo


The goal of this blog post is to hold your attention all the way to the end. If we were talking, I’d be battling the current average human attention span of eight seconds. For context, the average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. Good for the fish, but imagine if Goldie had a cell phone – I’m sure her numbers would go way down. Plus, living in a fish bowl doesn’t afford her much background distraction – if a goldfish had a way to escape a conversation, I’m sure her attention span would plummet. So, I guess I’ll stick to conversing with friends rather than a fish, but I had to think about it for quite awhile.

If a goldfish did have a cell phone, what do you think she’d use it for? Ordering sushi? Dating sites (Obviously on Plenty of Fish)? Puts a twist on those profile pics proudly holding the catch of the day. Therapy? My older kid eats so many Goldfish crackers, I have to believe there would by psychological damage to Goldie seeing that big carton on the kitchen counter.

By the way, the restaurant at the Denver Aquarium has tables next to huge tanks with tons of beautiful fish swimming by – as people order seafood off the menu!!! That isn’t right, people!!!

Eight seconds – I’ve already lost some readers. Unless they dig the content so far. RuPaul says, “Everyone has a really short attention span and you have to bombard them with content, content, content.” Or you can cross-dress, right? Seems like that would extend the average attention span by at least four seconds.

Here’s where I’ll lose more readers. According to Medium.com, following are the seven top tips to holding a reader’s attention to the very last word:

  1. Write about what readers are interested in.

My problem with this tip is that I don’t want to write about Tiger King

  1. Alternate long and short sentences.

This seems like a trick and an excuse for writers that hate Strunk and White to just do whatever they please without any regard for run-on sentences while not realizing that if the sentence alone takes at least eight seconds to read (nine, if the reader is a goldfish) then the trick is destined to fail because the reader will never get to the alternated short sentence before the squirrel appears and this sentence took me 18 seconds to read, so essentially I’m screwed. Right?

  1. Use short paragraphs.

Seems a bit contradictory to the tip of alternating long and short sentences.

  1. Hook the entire length of the article

The context here is about making every paragraph count but I just love the unintended pun. Poor Goldie is constantly hunted.

  1. Tell compelling stories.

No argument here. I don’t want to write boring stuff.

  1. Something to look forward to at the end.

Assuming this doesn’t mean looking forward to it being over.

  1. Use simple words.

I feel like this is insulting goldfish, but okay.

I think the average attention span is greatly affected by the situation. I’m probably guilty of hovering around the same span as a goldfish when it comes to things that aren’t relevant or interesting. However, in conversation, even if the person talking to me isn’t speaking to something I’m interested in, I try to give them the courtesy of my full and undivided attention, as long as my subconscious mind plotting my escape doesn’t nullify this proclamation.

I just read a book called You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy that is a big thumbs up and I recommend everyone read it. I actually thought I was a good listener until I read the book and now I have actionable ways to do a better job.

When it comes to my profession of advertising, us media folks have a tough task of targeting and timing while the creative folks have to make a compelling message. All in hopes of capturing attention in seconds (way less than eight) while also hopefully causing some action.

With all that said, I do fancy myself a good listener and a person that can focus. And being in advertising, I’m usually more attentive than the average goldfish to marketing. So I just took a test on PsychologyToday. Invoking HIPPA laws, I’m not going to share the details of my results other than the last sentence of the summary: “It would be a good idea to visit a psychologist in order to assess whether Attention Deficit Disorder may be an issue.”

Dang it.

I think I’ll just go buy a goldfish and be satisfied with safety in numbers. Hope you made it this far. Thanks if you did – next drink on me.




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