Is it True That Gen Z Have Really Short Attention Spans?

Watch out, there’s a meteoroid heading for Earth!

OK, that’s not true, but if we didn't grab your attention within eight seconds of you opening this article, we knew we’d lose you.

If the statistic that young people have an attention span of just eight seconds nowadays is to be believed, that is.

Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) and their obsession with the type of binge-able short-form content that’s best consumed from under a blanket are often cited as the cause of shrinking attention spans — but are we missing the full picture here? Is attention span context-dependent? And what does that mean for content creators? Let’s find out.


Is the attention span of Gen Z that of a goldfish?

One of the many nicknames Gen Z has been given is ‘Generation Goldfish.’ Why? Because their attention spans are just eight seconds long, even shorter than the memory of a goldfish.

While this statement certainly grabs your attention, it is, ironically, inaccurate. Firstly, the age-old myth about goldfish having awful memories has already been disproven. And now we’re here to debunk the myth that all Gen Zers have terrible attention spans.

Let’s check our sources

Many articles claiming that the average Gen Z attention span is just eight seconds cite a 2015 report by Microsoft Canada. But if you look at the original report, this number was sourced from ‘Statistic brain’ — a research company that doesn’t appear to have an online presence. For all we know, this number was plucked from thin air and shouldn’t be used to shape our perceptions of young people’s behavior.

What’s more, even if this statistic were legitimate, Microsoft’s research didn’t involve any Gen Z participants; the study looked at Canadian adults, and as Gen Z was aged between two and 17 at the time, they didn’t qualify to participate.

Young people aren’t so easily distracted

Are younger people more likely to turn to their phones when bored than older adults? Yes. But are they more easily distracted? No. According to one 2023 study, older adults are less likely to ignore distractions in their surroundings, a shift that happens naturally as we age.

Gen Z may love their short-form content, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to a short attention span. These are lazy assumptions that are based on prejudice, not data.

Short-form content was popularized by Millenials

Remember Vine? Well, Vine walked so TikTok could run. Vine, a video platform with a video cap of just six seconds, took the internet by storm in 2013 when the oldest Gen Zers were just 16 and the youngest were barely in diapers.

Attention span is context-dependent

Young people might like watching short-form content, but that enjoyment isn’t at the expense of long-form content.

For Gen Z, it’s not about content length but topic, and they’ve shown time and time again that they’ll tune in and stay tuned in when they’re watching content that interests them. This is why we’re seeing a rise in the popularity of documentaries among Gen Z and a huge literature revival.

In fact, Google has reported that Gen Z’s interest in long-form video content, including deep dives into topics they care about, is growing stronger, with 85% saying they use short-form video apps to discover things that they then watch longer versions of.

This applies to podcasts, too. 66% of Gen Z listeners use podcasts to stay updated on the latest topics, and the average podcast episode is just over 41 minutes long.


Content creators: remember, quality content always wins

Yes, Gen Z spends a lot of time on TikTok. But is this because the content is short or because the algorithm does an incredible job of serving you a continuous stream of content that’s relevant to your interests? It’s called the For You page for a reason, guys!

What we’re getting at is that Gen Zers don’t seek out short-form specifically but media that covers topics they’re interested in.

So, why does any of this matter? Because if you’re creating content targeted at younger audiences, it’s important to understand the truth about their consumption habits and not rely on generalizations that make for catchy headlines.

Whether you create snappy 30-second skits for TikTok or three-hour-long YouTube deep dives, your focus should be on creating engaging, high-quality content that resonates with your target audience.

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