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How An-Nisa: 63 Verses Can Help Businesses Make Great Content

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The truth is our attention lasts as long as our interests.

The attention competition

We create roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. That’s billions of news articles, videos, photos produced daily. We’re in a tsunami of content. But, does every byte matter? Not necessarily.

Microsoft Canada’s Attention Spans report (2015) surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs). It says the internet has affected us to lose concentration after eight seconds, which is shorter than the nine seconds of goldfish.

It implies we’re likely to ignore or overlook content amidst the wicked content wave. But, is that really the case? To me, it sounds like a mere justification to sell Microsoft Ads products. People might buy the attention spans idea and purchase Microsoft’s ad products as our business solutions.

Hear it from the UK General manager for Microsoft Advertising and Online Owen Sagness‘ statement in 2015:

“[…]Our study indicates that people are adapting their attention skills according to a broad range of demographic and lifestyle factors, such as age, vocation, or time of day. As consumers shift their behaviour to handle multi-screen environments, agencies too must shift their approach to audience engagement. Understanding different audience segments and how their attention spans impact their interaction with advertising is key.”

In plain English: “Agencies, Have you read our report? Our product has great data analytics and insight features for your ads. It helps reach audiences better. Go buy it.”

What did scientists say about the goldfish claim? Dr. Martina Quaggiotto and Prof. Felicity Huntingford of the University of Glasgow in their study How Smart Are Fish? found that fish have a well-developed capacity for learning and good memory, that’s more than 15 seconds. The goldfish short attention claim is, sorry to let you down, brutally debunked by the science. Microsoft 0, Professors 1.

An-Nisa: 63 and great content’s principles

The truth is our attention lasts as long as our interests.

A Quranic verse of An-Nisa: 63 reminds Muslim intellectuals to make use of qaulan baligha, namely to speak to audiences using effective words to reach their inner selves. Thus, to speak and write communicatively is aligned with religious teachings.

Indonesian psychology and communications professor Jalaluddin Rakhmat observed the qaulan baligha verse as communicating simply, clearly, and straight to the point. Additionally, advertising legend Bill Bernbach said if your advertising (content) goes unnoticed, everything else is academic.

It seems we ignore content because they’re boring and some of them try to sound smart but end up hard to understand. Too often, we’re overwhelmed by the uniformity of content. For too long, we crave thought-provoking, upstream, and bold content to challenge the status-quo or uniformity that hit people’s hearts and minds, noticeable, and impactful.

In that case, the “short attention spans” claim is rarely the case. It’s always about making content worth people’s attention, standing out from the crowd, easy for people to understand, so people care about what we do – no matter how long or short our contents are, in whatever platform.

Some facts on how long-form contents that normally require more concentrations and attention have prevailed:

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the world’s best-selling book of all time, has 300 pages long, and still be read for pleasure
  2. CoComelon, the most-watched series in 2020 on Netflix according to Forbes, has 55-64 minutes/episode, the runner-up The Queen’s Gambit has 46-67 minutes/episode, and people binge-watch them
  3. online gamers spent about eight hours and 27 minutes/week playing games, which is an increase of 14% over 2020, according to a new worldwide survey

Be interesting and don’t complicate things. Be focused on making quality works regardless of the lengths and platforms. Don’t teach our posterities, industry newbies, and clients the misleading idea of “human’s short attention spans.” Instead, teach them to always write clearly and interestingly. In other words, simplifying complex communications.

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