Catching and Keeping Attention

In today’s world, people take in immeasurable amounts of information each day. But how much of this information receives our attention?

When people are faced with so many messages, and so many distractions, what is the most effective way to communicate? Social media has become a leading tool for communication. No longer is it just used to communicate with friends and family, but is utilised by governments, organisations, marketers, and brands to spread their message. I believe the reason behind it’s effectiveness, is that social media, in itself, is a distraction. People can quickly skim through their social media to occupy themselves, or spend hours of procrastination scrolling through the various websites. Social media platforms are used to communicate with users quickly, through visuals and short messages, in order to catch and hold their attention.

One such social media platform that communicates messages in a concise and entertaining way is YouTube. In 2014, YouTube overtook Facebook to become the most visited social network. YouTube reaches more 18-34 year olds and 18-49 year olds than any cable network in the United States. With over one billion users, hundreds of millions of hours of video content is watched each day, generating billions of views.

Every minute, three hundred hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube. Although YouTube as a platform is reaching more people then ever, how are individual channels and videos catching and holding viewer’s attention? I have my own YouTube channel, to which I upload on a regular basis. I monitor my channel’s statistics and am able to see how many views each of my videos receives and the average length of time each viewer continues to watch. It is important to capture the viewer’s attention with creative thumbnails and interesting titles, but it is more important to maintain the viewer’s attention with relevant content.

YouTube is predominantly utilised for sharing short videos with quick messages; the most popular videos on YouTube average just over four minutes. It has been shown that viewer’s favour short videos. For a video of four to five minutes, fewer than 60% of viewers will still be watching at the end, compared to 75% for a one to two-minute video.

Many YouTube channels often address, explain, or discuss current world events in their videos. One of my favorite channels to do this is that of the Vlogbrothers, John and Hank Green. They have proved to be very effective in catching and maintaining the attention of veiwers. Their channel has over 2.65 million subscribers, and over 562 million views. John recently added a video to address the Refugee Crisis in Europe, Syria, and around the World. In the video, he “discusses the Syrian refugee crisis and the growing number of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritrea crossing the sea with the help of smugglers to seek refuge in European Union nations”. The channel contains lots of similar videos, addressing and explaining current world events. When discussing these kinds of deep, political or difficult topics, John takes a rational and emotive approach. He breaks the topic down into digestible information. He uses facts, statistics and graphs, yet still emphasises the impact on humanity. This is what draws my attention as a viewer, and why I remain a loyal subscriber to their channel.

Another channel that effectively discusses current political issues is SyrianGirlpartisan. She has also posted a video about the Refugee Crisis in Syria, however takes a more provocative approach than John. She looks at the crisis from an alternative perspective; specifically, what the media are hiding. The video aims to answer the unasked questions regarding the war, and the resulting refugee crisis. She discusses how the war was originally started by the US, how the majority of the refugees are not even Syrian, why Israel is not accepting refugees, and the resulting impact on displaced Syrians. She discusses controversial topics, and argues alternate sides to the mainstream media. All of these topics are highly provoking, made evident by the conversations and debates she has sparked in the 1,990 comments (and counting) under her video. Syrian Girl is able to grab viewer’s attention with provocative titles and controversial content. She receives hundreds of thousands of views and has the ability reach people from all over the world. Her content has the potential to get her into a lot of trouble; this is the risk of presenting your ideas in the public space. However, this is how she keeps the attention of her viewers.

So many things are competing for the attention of an audience. As a creator, I believe that once you have the attention of the audience, it is your responsibility to earn that attention.

So, thank you for reading… all the way to the end.

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Reference List:

Bowles, K 2015 BCM240 Lecture 7: paying attention to attention: 2015 Lecture Slides 16th September 2015, UOW, Semester 1, 2015.

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