Somewhere in the back of your mind, you probably remember reading at least one article saying that our attention spans are down to a “mere 8 seconds” — or “less than a goldfish”.

While it sounds catchy, it’s not that simple. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and get swept up in the clickbaity narrative, but the research on human attention spans isn’t so clear cut.

In fact, some scientific studies seem to point in the completely opposite direction — humans have an enormous capacity for attention.

Our Problem is Not Attention — it’s Distraction

The core issue isn’t a lack of attention — it’s the multitude of distractions competing for our focus. The modern consumer’s attention hasn’t become scarcer, it’s just spread thinner.

The growing popularity of platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube Shorts may give the impression that our attention span is declining. But the real issue is that we’re increasingly having to navigate a sea of rapid-fire, bite-sized, infinity well content that is algorithmically engineered to hook our interest.

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In this environment, the challenge for brands and marketers isn’t simply to capture attention, but to hold it — and use narratives that rise above the clamor as an antidote to distraction.

Long-form Content isn’t Going Away

There’s a wealth of evidence suggesting that long-form content is not only surviving but thriving.

Long-form articles are one example. They typically outrank shorter counterparts and are frequently rewarded with more social shares and links. This indicates that audiences are engaging with it, valuing it, and sharing it within their networks.

Podcasts, too, are more popular than ever with Australia leading the charge, recently having overtaken the US as the world’s biggest podcast-listening nation. Lengthy, detailed discussions are in our earbuds, consumed on our commutes and during our lunch breaks. This content isn’t bite-sized — it’s substantial, and its popularity is growing.

Anecdotal evidence further demonstrates this point. Look at the typical American viewer who is perfectly capable of devouring half a season of their favorite TV show in a single day. In a way, our binge-watching culture itself dispels the myth of an 8-second attention span.

Measuring Brand Engagement in Hours, not Minutes

When it comes to brand engagement, the playing field between long-form and short-form content isn’t level. Let’s compare a 30-second TikTok with an hour-long branded podcast:

  • A branded TikTok video of 30 seconds duration, with 10,000 views, and an average video completion rate of 62% creates 52 hours of consumer engagement.
  • A branded podcast of 30 minutes duration, with 1,000 listens, and an average episode completion rate of 75% creates 378 hours of consumer engagement.

So at a macro level, effectively executed long-form content will generate exponentially more engagement than short-form content (and often, it can achieve these results at a fraction of the cost).

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Let’s delve deeper into the data. We recently analyzed over 4.5 million consumed minutes of podcast performance data from 6 years of our client podcasts. We found that:

  • The average completion rate of long-form branded podcast content was 75.54%
  • The average listen duration per session was 22 minutes and 26 seconds

That’s 22 minutes of brand engagement at a time, per consumer, per listening session. It’s incredible when you compare that to producing some 20-second TikToks. And it’s much more brand depth than a 30 or 60-second ad spot on radio/TVC/pre-roll/etc.

Of course, short-form video and advertising have their place. These channels are great for generating awareness and reach, or even as a way to remind customers about your brand.

But for generating true engagement with your fans and customers, well-crafted long-form content reigns supreme.

The Secret Lies in Telling Compelling Stories

The truth is, people are capable of focusing intently on one thing for extended periods. But you have to craft something that is engaging and meaningful.

For long-form content, great storytelling isn’t just an advantage — it’s a prerequisite.

I’ve seen first-hand that storytelling isn’t an innate skill for many brands; it’s an art that must be nurtured and developed. Creating content that not only draws in an audience, but also maintains their interest, involves understanding the audience’s wants and needs, the narrative structure, and weaving a compelling brand message into the medium.

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That’s why when we work with a brand to launch and produce their podcast, we put extra effort into helping them unlock their storytelling potential. It takes time to learn how to craft narratives that don’t just sell a product or service, but instead build a meaningful connection with your customers and fans.

When done right, great storytelling has the power to truly captivate an audience and transform brand-customer relationships. And nothing does this better than well-crafted long-form content?

Original Article