Grab Attention Quickly or Else


How much time do you have to get the attention of readers — particularly in today’s digital world? The simple answer: Not much.

Thanks to Wylie Communications (Ann Wylie is a top trainer in addition to running her own company) for the following:

In the mid-20th century, communication theorist Clay Schoenfeld suggested a 30-3-30 rule for reader attention. As in:

  • 30 minutes: These folks re readers, and don’t we wish there were more of them
  • 3 minutes: They’re not reading the text. Instead, they’re flipping, skimming and scanning for key ideas
  • 30 seconds: These folks are lookers. They’ll learn whatever they can through an image and a bold headline

Today’s reality, according to Microsoft Research, is that web visitors:

  • Decide whether to stay on a page within 10 seconds
  • Are likely to stay longer if they make it over the 30-second hump
  • At that point, may stay as long as two minutes or more

Ann’s advice: The good news is you may be able to move these folks up the ladder of attention. If the 10-second view is interesting enough, you might turn a looker into a skimmer. if the display copy reveals real value, you might turn a skimmer into a reader.

But event if you don’t move visitors up the attention ladder, you need to reach each group where they are. You need to write for all your readers.