The more cynical folks among us like to make the observation that human attention spans are getting shorter. Smartphones, social media, tablets, video games – all to blame!
We don’t necessarily disagree. However, we would like to make the argument that this perceived shortening of the human attention span is not so much a negative side effect as a necessary evolution, allowing us as a species to evolve to keep up with the constant barrage of information we are bombarded with on a day to day basis.
We used to consume content. Today it is force-fed to us through multiple distribution channels. Television, computers, radio, mobile phones, electronic games… Hell, we can even think about adding virtual reality to the ever-growing list of distribution channels competing for our limited attention. Our attention spans are not shorter today. They are simply more fragmented.
In the past, we may have been able to sit in our living room and give our full attention to the television screen. These days, though, in addition to the television screen, we may also have a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone screen in our pocket or on the coffee table in front of us. Instead of dedicating our full attention to what we are watching on the television, we divide our attention between multiple devices.
This is not a trend unique to the United States. Indeed, when it comes to simultaneous use of multiple screens, the United States does not even make the top 20.
As can be seen above, our tendency to split our attention between multiple screens varies by location. It would be tempting to think that there is a strong economic component to such behavior, with only those countries wealthy enough to afford multiple devices per household. However, looking at the distribution, we see that even some of the countries with lower final household consumption per capita have high rates of simultaneous screen use. This leads us to the conclusion that there is also a strong cultural component to this behavior as well. In the below dashboard, you can see for yourself which countries have the highest rate of second-screen usage.
This is especially relevant information for advertisers because it means that they must compete even harder for the viewer’s attention. It also means that for feature content such as movies and television shows, advertisers need optimize for passive watching.
For localization, the implications are significant. In the past, subtitles for television and movies were the norm in many countries, and viewers were accustomed to this. However, subtitles do not allow a viewer to multitask. Viewers must be actively engaged in the program in order to read all of the subtitles shown on screen. Viewers who are splitting their time between the television and a second device will not be able to read all the subtitles.
This explains why we are seeing a shift from subtitles to voice-overs in a lot of localized media worldwide. Upgrading from subtitles to full dubbing means that the viewer is free to either actively watch or passively listen while also engaging simultaneously with a second device.
The rise of the second screen is discussed further in Nimdzi’s Insight Report, 2017 GLOBAL VOICE-OVER INDUSTRY TRENDS AND INFLUENCERS. If you are interested in finding out more we encourage you click the link and continue reading.
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