Ofcom UK Technology

Ofcom report reveals the harsh reality for marketers: we're striving for a few minutes of attention at best


By Jon Davie | UK chief executive

August 8, 2014 | 4 min read

The average UK adult now spends more time consuming media than they do sleeping, according to the latest report from the communications regulator Ofcom.

Media use may be up, but is it harder than ever to win attention?

Apparently we now spend eight hours and 41 minutes engaged in media and communications every day, compared with just eight hours 21 minutes asleep. And if that’s not enough to keep you awake at night, consider this: we actually cram more than 11 hours media consumption into that eight and a half hour day, as we feed our addiction to information by using two different channels at the same time.

Digging further into the data, it’s clear that the shift from traditional to digital media is showing no sign of slowing down.

Daily TV viewing fell below four hours for the first time since 2009. The average time listening to radio per listener fell in every demographic, from teens to pensioners. Mail volumes fell by five per cent year-on-year. And one in six adults now live in a household with no fixed landline.

The move from desktop to mobile and tablet computing is also clear. Web usage on laptop and desktop machines was down 15 per cent, while browsing on mobile now accounts for nearly six hours per week. And the trend is even more pronounced among younger consumers – the average 16-24 year old spends more than three and a half hours glued to their mobile every day.

The full report has 429 pages of stats, tables and graphs. But the conclusion for us marketers is pretty simple: if the average Joe is consuming 11 hours of media each and every day, they don’t have much time left to enjoy our carefully crafted communications.

Clients and agencies alike are prone to a particular kind of collective delusion: we believe that everyone cares as much about our work as we do. Because we spent months slaving over every last detail of the script, we expect the audience to reward our efforts with their undivided attention.

But in the real world, we’re striving for a few minutes of attention at best. The sooner we accept this, the more chance we have of making those precious minutes count – delivering a message that actually resonates with the people we’re trying to reach.

On the surface, the Ofcom report is good news for content marketers. People are consuming more content, on more devices, on more platforms, than ever before. And where the audience goes, brands will surely follow – which means more briefs and more budgets.

But the barrage of stats should also serve as a cautionary note. In a world with so much noise, it’s harder than ever to achieve cut through. Producing great content requires passion, enthusiasm and commitment. But perhaps there’s also a need for just a little bit of cynicism.

Someone in the process needs to ask the tough questions: Why would anyone care about this content? And why would anyone share it?

Jon Davie is managing director at Zone

Ofcom UK Technology

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