When discussing the effort needed to capture people’s attention online, you’ll often find a juicy bit of trivia quoted that says our attention span has dropped below that of a goldfish.
While our shiny friend has an attention span of nine seconds, homo sapiens have apparently dropped to a miserable eight seconds.
The eight second figure seems to have originated in a report by Microsoft on the online behaviour of Canadians.
This report contained an infographic with the infamous number, although this information was not part of Microsoft’s own research, but instead obtained from an external research provider to illustrate a point.
However, some digging by a sceptical mind quickly debunked this finding.
The eight second measure seems to be a fabrication and in fact the idea that our attention span has become shorter and shorter is equally flawed.
What seems more likely to be the case is that the attention span changes between the different types of media consumed. Since few websites publish articles longer than 2000 words, the average time spent on a site, called ‘sessions’, is measured in minutes, not hours.
Twitter messages, with a maximum of 280 characters, don’t capture the attention for more than a few seconds.
That is why the rise of podcasting is so fascinating.
Although cynics argue that today everyone has a podcast, the boom is still in its infancy.
In Australia, only 30 per cent of adults have ever listened to a podcast, while 17 per cent do so on a monthly basis, according to 2017 figures from Edison Research.
In comparison, in the United States, where podcasting originated, about 24 per cent listen to podcasts on a monthly basis.
Half of regular podcast users in Australia spend at least three hours per week listening, while 30 per cent of all users say they spent more than five hours a week
But where it becomes interesting is in the time spent on these podcasts. Half of regular podcast users in Australia spend at least three hours per week listening, while 30 per cent of all users say they spent more than five hours a week.
If we indeed are competing in an attention economy, as author Tim Wu argues in his book, “The Attention Merchants”, then podcasts are right up there with television as a key media format.
At [i3], we started our first podcasts in March this year in collaboration with MarketFox blogger and columnist Daniel Grioli, and we have been pleasantly surprised by the number of listeners and feedback we’ve received.
One of our first interviews was a discussion with GMO founder Jeremy Grantham and this interview was quickly picked up by US investment blogs and has since been downloaded thousands of times.
“This podcast is one of the best I have heard on quantitative investing … being a successful quantitative investor requires a constant process of learning and this podcast has a lot to offer to enhance that process.”
We were also humbled to have been included in Meb Faber’s list of Top Investment Podcasts of 2018.
In announcing his list, Faber marvelled at how much quality content is available through the various podcasts.
“Seriously, you should listen to these, it’s like getting a Masters in Investing … unreal that these are all free … what a time to be alive!”
On a personal level, an interview we did with Rob Prugue, former Chief Executive Officer of Lazard Asset Management’s Asia-Pacific business, about addressing stigmas around mental health and suicide through his organisation, PROP, was particularly rewarding as we received feedback that it started the discussion for some of our friends in the industry with their loved ones.
So we are looking forward to delivering you more great podcasts in the year to come. And please feel free to reach out to us with ideas or people who you think should be featured.
Have a great Christmas and a happy New Year,
Director of Content, Investment Innovation Institute [i3]