Digital marketing trends: attention spans aren’t shrinking, they’re evolving

Sep 13, 2018 | Content marketing, Online advertising

Attention spans are not shrinking, rather they are evolving to be more selective, according to a new research.

The study from presentation platform Prezi, looks at how practices such as multitasking impacts people’s ability to retain information and what marketers can do to create more engaging material.

The 2018 State of Attention Report, has revealed a number of key findings that will help marketers boost their ability to cut through distractions and engage with modern audiences:

  • People are becoming more selective – 42% are more selective on the content they consume compared to a year ago
  • The key to engaging content is compelling story and visuals – 85% said a strong narrative is critical in maintaining audience engagement while 73% said the use of animated visuals is effective in keeping the audience engaged

According to the survey, respondents felt their ability to maintain focus has actually improved over time, despite an ever-growing mountain of available content. This demonstrates that the attention of business professionals can be captured for long periods of time with compelling content that includes great stories and interesting, gripping visuals.
More than two thousand business professionals across the UK participated in the study, conducted by Censuswide. Key findings include:

  1. Respondents reported that they have increased attention spans, but have become more selective in the content they choose to consume:
  • Six out of ten (58%) professionals say they can give a piece of content their undivided attention without getting distracted, more now than they could one year ago.
  • 42% admit they’ve become more selective about the content they consume.


  1. The key to engaging content is a compelling story and visuals:
  • Nearly 9 in 10 respondents said a strong narrative (85%) or the story (81%) behind what’s being presented is critical in maintaining the engagement of their audience.
  • Over a third (34%) of business professionals say a great story captures their focus and keeps them engaged with content.
  • In regards to presentations, 73% of business professionals said the use of animated visuals in presentations is effective in keeping the audience engaged.


  1. The costs of not keeping attention for business professionals are high:
  • 86% of business professionals say they multitask during meetings.
  • Around one-third (30%) of these multitaskers lose track of what was being discussed and have trouble retaining the information that was being discussed.
  • One in five (19%) admit multitasking in meetings has caused them to make an error in their work.


“Our attention spans being shorter than a goldfish’s is a grossly inaccurate rumour. These days it’s common to binge-watch a series for six or more hours, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to pay attention in a meeting. You just need to couple your content with a compelling story and great visuals,” says Nadjya Ghausi, vice president of marketing at Prezi. “We at Prezi believe that attention spans aren’t shrinking — they’re simply evolving, and the time to cater to new preferences isn’t tomorrow; it’s now.”

Millennials: Effective Visuals and Presenting is Key in engaging this Audience

There are now almost 2.4 billion Millennials in the world, according to the UN Population division, making up a third of the global population. This means they are the most important group to cater to when seeking the attention of business audiences. Yet, they are also the age group that is hardest to engage with, highlighting the need for presenters to rely on visuals and compelling content to truly connect with this challenging audience.

  • More Millennials (80%) than Gen Xers (68%) or Boomers (59%) shifted their focus away from the speaker during the most recent presentation or sales pitch they saw live.
  • More Millennials (27%) than Gen Xers (19%) or Boomers (13%) reported issues retaining the material they consumed when they attempted to divide their attention across multiple pieces of content.
  • More Millennials (12%) than Gen Xers (7%) or Boomers (3%) made an error in their work as a result of multitasking in a meeting.
  • About one-third (31%) of Millennials say they only engage with content that they feel has a great story or theme.
  • 73% of Millennial presenters say animated visuals are effective in keeping an audience engaged.

More effective storytelling in business can also help bridge gaps between different generations in the workforce. The State of Attention study found that one-third (34 percent) of all business professionals say a great story captures their focus and keeps them engaged with content.


The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,008 Full time office workers between 05.04.2018 – 09.04.2018. Offering both quantitative and qualitative methodology, Censuswide deliver high quality market research for strategy, marketing, thought leadership, creative testing and PR. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

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