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Pay Attention: A Quality Content Conversation at the DCN Summit

January 30, 2015 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

Thank you for your attention. I should be grateful for it, given that the average human attention span is now 8 seconds, 1 second less than a goldfish. I’d say let that sink in, but I may have already lost you.

I came by this remarkable statistic by way of Rhonda Crawford the Vice President of eCommerce at Delta Air Lines, a speaker at Digital Content Next’s annual member Summit, held January 21-23 in Miami, FL. She faces the daunting task of creating a content experience that meets the needs of her audience—travelers—during each phase of their journey. While her content perspective differed from many of the event’s speakers—who hailed from The New York Times, ESPN, Business Insider, NBCUniversal, The Daily Beast, among others—her goldfish statistic hit home with everyone. It also elegantly reflected the theme for DCN’s 2015 Summit: The Attention Economy.

In today’s Attention Economy, as DCN CEO Jason Kint put it in his opening remarks, “we are competing for attention with individuals, institutions, and brands… Media companies used to hope for 30 minutes of focused attention every day or maybe every week. Now, it is more like hoping for a few minutes every day. The goal, of course, is to improve the quality of that time.”

Financial Times, Chartbeat, DCN Summit
Brendan Spain, US Commercial Director at the FT & Tony Haile, CEO of Charbeat

In an Attention Economy, quality rises to the top—and not just as a measure of traditional media engagement. For example, Tony Haile, CEO of Charbeat said that a number of brand recognition studies report that good creative is one of the best predictors of advertising success. Haile is one of a growing number of advocates of moving away from click metrics to time spent as the way to measure ad impact. Brendan Spain, US Commercial Director at the FT, echoed this sentiment and emphasized that brand marketing must be outcome-oriented and “optimized for attention.” This is in line with his publication’s editorial strategy as well, which focuses on the connection between great content and reader attention.

This theme was consistent throughout the event, whether the speaker was a media or marketing executive. As Julie Fleischer, Director of Media and Consumer Engagement at Kraft put it, “They only call it branded content when it’s lousy. Otherwise, they call it content.” She called for constant innovation in marketing creative and distribution, going so far as to suggest that media companies rethink who they bring to sales meetings and include “the dev guy and the product people. Progress happens when we stop thinking about packaging and build something new.”

Julie Fleischer, Director of Media and Consumer Engagement, Kraft
Julie Fleischer, Director of Media and Consumer Engagement, Kraft

R “Ray” Wang, author of the forthcoming book Disrupting Digital Business said that “good content rises above all the noise” and urges businesses of any type to focus on “transformational innovation.” The future, according to Wang, is about “the fan experience and mass-personalized journeys at scale for an audience of one.”

Fleischer from Kraft said that all organizations must “Know their customers on a proprietary level,” which leads to content and experiences that truly engage. And content creates a two way street with customers; she finds that “we learn an incredible amount from our consumers based upon their interaction with our content.”

So has the FT, particularly when it comes to ad impact and what Spain calls “the new currency of the web: time.” In its studies of the impact of exposure time on ad recall, the FT found 17% recall in ads viewed for under 5 seconds, and an almost 80% increase in recall for ads seen for over five seconds. According to Spain, they’ve already shifted their internal sales conversations from quantity to quality, focusing on the value of attention. And from what was heard at the 2015 DCN Summit, the larger industry conversation will be moving that direction as well.

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