Bears, Beets, and ...

up all night

My wife looked at me, mischief and eagerness in her eyes.

“Think we have time for one more?” she asked.

“Yes!” I answered breathlessly.

She pressed a button on the DVD remote, and another episode of “Battlestar Galactica” began to play.

It was already 1:45 in the morning.

Not only did I have work tomorrow (today?), I was scheduled to give a presentation at a company meeting.


Luckily, that was the last episode on the DVD that had arrived in the mail the day before. We’d have to wait a week or two to get sucked into the next episode or 6.

2:42 AM. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t.

Instead, I tossed and turned worrying about my presentation and wondering who was secretly a Cylon.

Those DVDs taught me an unexpected lesson back in 2005, but I didn’t realize it until recently:

The “7 second attention span” that creators and marketers lament?

It’s a dirty lie.

I’ve heard over and over that the average attention span is only 7 seconds, worse than a goldfish.

Social media “scroll culture” seems to support this.

Most online marketing is designed around this “fact”, and so ads, headlines and subject lines are designed to capture attention at any cost.

And landing pages are designed to collect emails as quickly as possible.

Because if they leave, they may never return.

There is truth to this, but not because of some defect with people's attention spans.

Humans have the ability to focus on one thing for very long periods of time.

Television, movies, and books are all proof.

The problem is not short attention spans, but the lack of content worthy of attention.

When we want to share a message, it’s easy to fall into “lecture mode,” standing on your soapbox and preaching at passersby.

We capture attention by shouting, then hope they stay and listen long enough to be converted.

However, most people give you a quick glance and keep walking.

In contrast, people will happily sit in a movie theater for hours, subliminally absorbing the implanted messages while paying for overpriced popcorn and drinks.

So what's the difference?


Lectures are boring, but stories are not.

Instead of jumping and shouting to steal seconds of someone’s attention,

Entertain and enlighten them, then ask if they’d like to stay for the sequel.

By the way, my presentation was fine and I didn't get fired.

But the characters who turned out to be Cylons were very disappointing.



P.S. How am I doing at creating content worthy of attention? Feel free to hit reply or leave a comment either way.

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