And now for a scary content marketing nightmare…

Apparently no one reads stuff any more. Our brains are becoming like those of goldfish.

According to research by WebDam, people seem to be experiencing a form of early-onset dementia. Attention spans are plummeting and words are just blots on the page – as it appears consumers are approaching content in a completely different way.

These points should give pause for thought. WebDam came up with these findings:


  • 81 per cent of people skim-read online content
  • An opinion is formed in 50 milliseconds
  • The average person is distracted in 8 seconds.

But is it right?

Anyone with a journalistic bent will have noticed a fairly major stylistic error in the second paragraph.

Unless you’re talking about a company or organisation on the scale of Ford or the BBC, it is considered polite to give some sort of context to a company.

So what the hell is WebDam? Unsurprisingly, it produces a content system for supplying images. And yes, WebDam also makes the point that images create 650 per cent better engagement.

We’ve written before about creating research to back up your product. It’s basic PR.


Nevertheless, there is some proof that the habit of consuming through smartphones and tablets is lowering attention spans.

The ‘8 seconds’ stat comes from a study in Canada in 2015. Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms.

Results showed that the average human attention span had fallen from 12 seconds in 2000. That of a goldfish is believed to be 9 seconds.

Content marketing

So back to our producer of content marketing. Is all lost? And do they need to fall back on a bunch of pictures and captions?

Well for a start let’s imagine they are working on B2B material. As is well known, business purchases are often made after substantial research and viewing.

Some of this will come from infographic, some from images and some from text. Ultimately, it will come down to the detail.

Secondly, interesting well-written content will always capture the attention.

Additionally, the fact that people skim-read should not be a big cause for concern. There is so much content out there now and the brain has found a way to assimilate it. What would be more worrying is if they weren’t looking at anything.

Mobile first

Moreover, beware of assuming that images are the solution. While they may work better on desktop, the use of images on mobile has been proved to stop people scrolling. This is because responsive design layouts allow the image to take over the whole screen.

It is too simple to make assumptions on the back of this research. Sure, sometimes people will skim. But sometimes they will concentrate intently, read, make notes, come to a decision.

The real challenge is to pick the right type of content for the situation. Goldfish can fend for themselves.

And now for a scary content marketing nightmare is part of Content24, the blog for London content marketing agency FirstWord.