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  The 3 Challenges Every Storyteller Faces

SUMMARY

Every storyteller who's sharing media online faces the same three challenges, whether it's a corporate marketing team or your cousin sharing kitten photos on Facebook. These challenges comprise the ongoing War for Attention that we're all fighting -- and which a good story can help you win.

Challenge #1: Short Attention Spans

Simply put, we have become a nation of skimmers.

The average adult attention span is below 13 seconds. Barely half of all readers will reach the midpoint of an online article, and about 10% won't even bother scrolling down the page before they close that tab.

All of this adds up to low odds that a reader will finish anything you write.

This is partly because...

Challenge #2: Our Devices Are Designed to Distract Us

As you scroll through your Twitter or Facebook feed, you’re constantly making split-second decisions about what's worth your attention and what isn't. And once you decide something isn't worth interacting with, the Facebook algorithm remembers your inaction... which means you just became even less likely to see media from that source again.

Why?

Because Facebook is in the business of keeping people on their website. They won't continually serve a person media that this person isn't engaging with, because it increases the likelihood that they'll close the app.

So, at the root, the more magnetic your story is, the more Facebook's algorithm will reward you for it in the future... but if it's not magnetic, well... good luck.

And it's difficult to earn that crucial engagement, because...

Challenge #3: We Have Endless Competition for Our Daily 24 Hours of Attention

When you publish a piece of media, you are in competition with every story, ever told, in the entirety of human history.

We all are.

And because the Internet gives you a chance to see media from Disney and your Uncle Keith side by side on the same device, that means that each of us is in direct competition for attention with professional storytellers, 24/7.

As a result, most of us live in an increasing state of FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. We suspect that something more interesting is happening in a different tab or a different channel, so we're perpetually fighting the urge to click away and keep surfing.

No wonder our attention spans are shot.

Luckily, there's an antidote to all three of these challenges: crafting compelling stories that hook and hold your audience's attention, so they lose track of time and their FOMO fades.

We'll discuss a wide array of techniques for telling these kinds of stories in the next three sections.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Attention spans have been steadily dropping online for the past 20 years
  • Our devices and channels -- especially Twitter and Facebook -- perpetuate this attention war by design
  • Your story is in direct competition with every piece of media ever created, by anyone -- so it has to stand out

REFERENCES

Why You Won't Finish This Article

Humans Have Shorter Attention Spans Than Goldfish

How Much Content We Created Online Every Minute (JUST in 2013)

EXERCISE

Visit Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, and scroll down until you've seen 10 different updates or pieces of content. If you only had time to click on ONE of those stories, which one would you choose, and why?