Recently, I noticed an advertisement on my Facebook feed that referred to a Microsoft study suggesting that the average attention span of humans has dropped since the start of the century. Apparently, the average human attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds, but by 2013 it was only 8 seconds. The point of that ad was that we humans have one second shorter attention span than goldfish.
While that fairly amusing tidbit has been debunked, the fact remains that digital lifestyle and the modern technology behind it affect the people who use it, just not in those terms. There is no concrete evidence human attention span is shrinking. It’s just that as humans, we are a cognitively distracted species and that’s perfectly normal.
For publishers and other businesses, this innate inability to focus is an opportunity, one that can both increase engagement and time their visitors spend on their websites. Here’s how: audio.
New channel, new opportunities
In my short (but effective!) research on that goldfish thingy, I’ve realized short attention span should be viewed from the opposite side. The ability to switch between focused thinking (when we’re locked onto the matter at hand) and diffuse thinking (when your mind wanders freely like a movie kid at a carnival) is like a superpower of sorts. We are able to concentrate on a complex task while also being cognizant of our surroundings, and that makes us dynamic and hyper-alert creatures.
And if there ever was a time those two modes are so disparately obvious, it’s the present. Even though technology is likely affecting our attention spans, it’s also improving our multitasking abilities. That’s even corroborated in the aforementioned Microsoft study: by being able to concentrate in short bursts, we gain a better sense of what deserves our attention and allows us to do a better job of remembering certain things.
To effectively leverage this type of behavior, you need to incorporate a new channel in your strategy: audio. Audio content is ideal for a multitasking audience, especially since it’s increasingly moving away from screens and settling on speakers and headphones. For instance, the percentage of the US population who listen to online audio (defined as listening to AM/FM radio stations online and/or listening to streamed audio content available only online) has doubled since 2012, growing from one-third of the population to two-thirds. In fact, time spent listening to online audio is at an all-time high with nearly 17 hours of listening per week.
I could throw a number of stats at you and they would all stick because this is the age of efficiency. Voice technology allows high levels of convenience because the voice is the natural user interface. That’s why smart speakers continue to gain in popularity, and why we are seeing a full-on voice-first expansion into different areas and industries (cars, healthcare, retail, etc.). One of the more prominent beneficiaries of these developments is podcasting, the big digital audio story that’s leading to lots of investments in the space, which, in turn, provides new monetization opportunities.
It’s almost a cycle that goes full circle as one thing seems to power the other. So where does that leave you, wanting to increase engagement on your website? Enter contech.
An audio presence
Contech, short for content technology, is one of the main drivers in increased audio consumption because it answers the demands of modern users. With voice tech, readers see a chance to sort out through the noise in a convenient way. This effectively turns them into listeners, and you can leverage contech in the same way.
Primarily, you need to make your content available in an audio format, and the easiest and seamless way to do so is to incorporate a native audio player, just like the one at the top of this post. Just put the code where you want it on the page, let it perform a scan and an audio version of the post/article will automatically be added. Further customization allows the player to blend in with your site while users can tinker with languages, playback speed, tone, and other things for optimal listening experience. What’s more, the playback continues in the background, allowing your users to comb through your other content while they listen.
The text to speech technology has finally matured to the point where human ears are more tolerant of synthesized voices. With that in mind, the native audio player can engage your audience in a novel, yet natural way so that they stick around longer despite the short attention span. Equally important, it’s a veritable solution for audio content creation needs and its subsequent monetization and is already an important link in the retention strategy of numerous publishers who are seizing on the opportunity to quench the thirst for their readers listening habits.
The fact is, voice and audio content adoption will continue to grow as contech capabilities expand more and businesses realize what they have on their hands. Contech is developing fast, adding on to what voice technology is doing. Already, the use of smartphones for Internet-based car audio is becoming old news as in-dash ‘infotainment’ systems with built-in Internet connectivity are on the way to simplify the listening experience. And that’s one example in an ocean of voice-first developments that are overtaking the landscape – why would your website be any different?
This is just the beginning
Voice is on route to establishing itself as the remote control interface of tomorrow, further removing the complexities when it comes to access to a wide range of content and devices. The improved user experience with native audio players on your website may be only one layer to providing additional value and keeping your visitors tied to your content, but it’s the first and the most important step to providing a familiar and personalized experience.
More importantly, that experience effortlessly translates to different environments as readers and other voice-oriented users look for continuity and straightforwardness. They want everything (experiences, interactions, devices, preferences) connected in a way that makes life easier and more convenient on a daily basis. And that, my friends, is the real kicker with voice and audio content.