Fighting Digital Attention Deficit Begins at Home

Steve Rubel on Digital Communications

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Every day, there's a barrage of numbers from ComScore, Forrester and others that quantifies our enthusiasm for consuming all things digital. But we're in danger of overlooking three Nielsen metrics that are downright frightening and point to a staggering digital attention deficit.

The first: The average American visited 87 domains in September. The second: He or she browsed 2,645 web pages that month. And the third: All of 57 seconds is the average time he or she spent per page.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.
When you think about the infinite choices we have today, those numbers are tiny. And given that human attention doesn't scale, I anticipate these numbers will, at best, remain stable or, worse, shrink.

Given such dynamics, it seems too many digital marketers are still fixated on acquiring reach through in-your-face marketing such as "road blocks" and "homepage takeovers." We're not respecting our customers' time, which remains static despite the growth of digital destinations.

I have been giving digital attention deficit a lot of thought and have reached the conclusion that change must begin at home. We need to become more efficient, streamlined one-to-one communicators.

With this in mind, I have started building in these three simple habits in my day-to-day work.

First, I'm limiting my digital written communications to fewer than 500 words. This includes e-mail, blog posts and yes, Ad Age columns. Proposals are my one exception. (For more tips on how to do streamline e-mail, check out

Second, I am relying more on visuals. According to the book "Brain Rules," if information is presented just verbally, people only remember about 10%. This jumps to 65% if you add a picture. As a result, I have stripped my PowerPoint decks of bullet points. What's more, I am relying more on mind-mapping to communicate complex ideas.

Finally, when it comes to my personal content, I have embraced a hub-and-spoke model. I recognize that today it's ridiculous for me to expect people to visit my site when there's so much other content vying for their attention. So I make sure that I am ubiquitous in all the relevant venues by auto-syndicating my content and then engaging around it.

Now you don't need to follow my advice , but we should all consider the digital attention deficit the every time we put fingers to keys.

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