8 Seconds to Pounce

Eight seconds. That’s the average attention span of today’s reader, with those precious seconds representing about the time to ready only 30 to 40 words of copy. Or about HERE (at 35 words). As recently as in 2000, the average attention span was 12 seconds. But when online and mobile use exploded, along with distractions from multiple streams of media, another one-third of our attention span was lopped off.

Attention span, as defined in a new study, is “the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted.” Commanding concentrated time in just eight seconds is a tall order for marketers. 

As I wrote above, those eight seconds only allow reading 30 to 40 words (based on my informal findings). That represents about 5 to 8 words for a headline followed by a couple of average length sentences, or three or four short sentences. That’s all the time you’ve got to engage your reader to convince them to give you more time.

Consider these stats:

•    Average attention span in 2015:    8.25 seconds
•    Average attention span in 2000:    12.00 seconds
•    Average number of times per hour an office worker checks their email box:     30
•    Average length watched of a single internet video:    2.7 minutes

There are a few other stats out there that underscore how we, as a culture, don’t pay attention for very long before moving on:

•    Percent of web page views that last less than 4 seconds:    17 %
•    Percent of web page views that lasted more than 10 minutes:    4 %
•    Percent of words read on web pages with 111 words or less:    49 %
•    Percent of words read on an average (593 words) web page:    28 %

There’s more: users spend only 4.4 seconds more for each additional 100 words speed reading through web copy.

What does this mean for direct marketers? You must grab your reader using 3 E’s in copywriting that:

1.    Entertains
2.    Educates
3.    Engages

This doesn’t necessarily mean writing shorter copy. 

•    Copy must work smarter to get attention. Use the 3 E’s in combination.
•    Eliminate “warm up” copy and stimulate emotion fast by introducing fear, uncertainty and doubt in your prospect’s mind. 
•    Quickly calm your prospect’s mind with your solution and why your prospect should go beyond eight seconds to learn more about you.

Grab the reader with the 3 E’s of copywriting and improve your odds they’ll stick with you. But if you hope to make the sale, your copy must quickly get to the point to interest the reader longer than a mere eight seconds.

(This article originally appeared in Today @ Target Marketing Magazine).


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.