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Media Trends Monday: TikTok and Your Attention Span

Today’s key points
  • Research shows that our collective attention span is shortening
  • Shorter videos dominate the “For You Page” on TikTok
  • Is TikTok at fault?

As it was with Vine, the conversation around decreasing attention spans is inherently tied to TikTok. The videos are short, but what does the data say? 

I’ve had more than a few people tell me that TikTok is lowering their attention span. It’s a real love-hate relationship of sorts. “I know that I’m going to scroll for an hour if I pick up my phone, so I had to just delete it,” said one person. 

TikTok Quote Graphic

Attention span data

To make a long story short, TikTok is so new that there isn’t much research on its effect on attention spans. We do know that our collective attention spans have been shortening over time. A 2013 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that the average human attention span had dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013.

However, blaming that drop on social media is probably an oversimplification. The real issue seems to be our increased willingness to multitask, especially with screens. We won’t shame you any further, but when you’re watching TV and responding to emails at the same time, it’s probably not the best. 

Attention and TikTok’s algorithm

So why is TikTok our attention-sapping scapegoat? It has a lot to do with the length of the average video on the platform. Despite rolling out 3 minute and now 10 minute videos this year, it’s clear that shorter videos still dominate the “for you page” on TikTok. But why is that? 

Two of the most crucial metrics to TikTok’s algorithm are average watch time, and percent of users that COMPLETED the video. We know that the minimum threshold of these metrics are lower for longer videos in terms of going viral. 

For example, for videos longer than 40 seconds long, viral videos typically have 60% or more average watch time, while for 14-20 second videos, virality typically requires 90% or more watch time. Knowing this, we’d assume that long videos would have just as much of a chance to succeed as short videos, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case.

What’s going to happen?

At this point, it’s going to be up to TikTok to take action and make an emphasis on pushing out more long-form videos. We need to see more research on TikTok to make a full conclusion, but as of now it seems like only a small piece of the shortening attention spans pie. 

We’re staying on top of the latest social media and media trends so you don’t have to. Let’s talk. Send us a message and follow us on Linkedin, Instagram, or TikTok. 

 

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If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. Maybe your attention span is stronger than most. Have a great week, and we’ll see you for the next installment of Media Trends Monday. 

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