Multi-platform research

Insight and analysis into the roles of multi-platform newsbrands in delivering effective advertising.

The battle for attention

Newsworks' The battle for attention, conducted by PwC, explores the importance of attention in a world saturated with infinite content. The findings show that the role of newsbrands, as a trusted medium that people choose to pay attention to, is more important than ever.

There is a double whammy facing brands today, with more and more media content being squeezed into less and less time and multi-tasking and multi-screening increasingly becoming the norm.

According to a study by Microsoft Canada, the average human attention span decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013 making it shorter than that of a goldfish, which are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds.

Some in our industry have come to believe that time spent with a media type is a fair measure of where the advertising dollars should be placed. Others, such as Sir Martin Sorrell, argue that the quality of time spent needs to be factored in.

The academic definition of attention is the behavioural and cognitive process of selectively concentrating on some information, while ignoring other perceivable information.

There are two types of attention. On the one hand we have sustained and selective attention – prolonged focus or maintaining attention regardless of distracting stimuli around. On the other, we have divided attention - completing two or more tasks simultaneously.

It is a widely accepted notion in the communications world that divided attention is the norm and sustained attention is on the wane. However, divided attention is actually better described as alternating attention – if you think you are doing two things at once, you are in reality switching between the two, even if those switches are infinitesimally small.

Newsworks partnered with PwC to examine the role attention plays across different types of media and platforms in driving consumer engagement with advertising. A nationally representative adult survey across Great Britain generated data for 2,643 people across 15 media types, generating 7,770 responses, which were aligned with industry metrics: IPA TouchPoints, comScore and Chartbeat.

Key findings

The study found that national print newspapers come out on top when it comes to people regularly putting time aside for them; feeling a personal connection with titles; giving people something to talk about; and readers feeling trust in the content - all of which are drivers of attention.

Using the data collected and the correlations from the analysis performed, an attention equation was created: Attention = solus media + (multimedia x high focus).

Solus media is when people are using one media at a time. Focus level is how concentrated they are while using multiple media. Solus is the more important of the two because it creates the most powerful advertising response.

The attention score achieved by each media type for its regular consumers is shown in the graph below.

The attention scores for each media type

Millennials are often believed... be constant multi-taskers, continuously moving between different screens and unable to focus on the task at hand.

The research found that this is not the case, with the media attention scores of the general population (shown in the chart) being very similar to those aged 18-34.

For instance, national print newspaper attention scores were 80% for regular adult consumers and 72% for 18-34 year olds.  Meanwhile, national newspaper websites scored 73% for the general population and 70% for 18-34s.

Other findings:

  • 60% of regular newspaper print readers are not consuming any other media at the same time as reading newspapers
  • For the 40% that do consume other media with print newspapers, it’s most likely to be non-commercial BBC TV and radio – meaning that the only ads people are exposed to are those in the newspaper
  • No significant generational difference was found: 56% of millennials who read national print newspapers do not consume other media while reading newspapers
  • 65% of regular newspaper print readers are not doing any other activities such as cooking, housework or talking to people at the same time as they are reading
  • There is no statistically significant relationship between time spent and advertising response
  • High levels of attention correlate with high advertising response scores, such as: Ads give me ideas about brands, encourage me to consider purchasing and trust in the advertising

In conclusion, the study shows that attention is about choice: people choose to be attentive to media content that draws them in and that reflects their values. Attention has an important role to play in advertising. After all, even the word advertising comes from the Latin word advertere, which means to draw attention to something. While low involvement processing can help to build brands, attention helps to kick-start consumer action.

Does engagement matter?

The battle for attention charts

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