Image via @cspenn

If we are going to create better content we need to learn to consume content better. @DrewDavisHere #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Humans by nature are curious, but that curiosity is facing a very real threat: crappy content.

In his opening keynote at Content Marketing World, the amazing Andrew Davis dove headfirst into one of the top challenges all content marketers face today: getting and keeping the attention of their audiences.

Conventional wisdom from today’s content marketers is that content should be snackable, scannable and – in a nutshell – short. However, is our content really too long? Or is it that we aren’t building enough curiosity with our audience to keep them engaged? Below we’ll take a look at some of the top excuses we’re using to justify bad content, and the perfect formula for capturing audience attention.

But first, check out Drew’s new music video that he “dropped” right before his keynote (this is literally what I woke up to this morning in my LinkedIn feed):


2 “Reasons” Long-Form Content Isn’t Connecting

In an effort to make our content shorter and shorter, we’ve eliminated everything that made it interesting. @drewdavishere #CMWorld Click To Tweet

As I mentioned at the beginning, marketers are constantly being told that their content is too long. And even after cutting it down, can they “make it just a bit shorter”? But the question remains, WHY are we being asked to shorten our content?

#1 – Audience Attention Span
According to recent studies, audience attention spans are approximately that of a goldfish. A whole nine seconds. Okay marketers, let’s give our audience more credit than that.

The truth is, our audience is very capable of paying attention. We just need to create a compelling content experience that grabs and KEEPS their attention.

#2 – Not Enough Time
Anyone who thinks their audience just doesn’t have enough time to engage clearly is not familiar with Netflix. What is now a mega streaming service has found a way to get its captive audience to content binge (literally for days).

Why? Netflix shares (and creates) a variety of long-form content that piques and holds their interest for an extended period of time. The moral of the story? Audience members will MAKE time to for content if they find something that interests them.

Audiences will make time to consume content that contains their interest. @drewdavishere #CMWorld Click To Tweet

The Perfect Formula for Capturing Audience Attention

In order to pique curiosity with your audience, there has to be a gap between what they know and what they want to know. In fact, Andrew shared a formula for success:

Create Curiosity Gaps

Curiosity gaps can be used for good or evil. Let’s use ours to invite our audience to chase answers. @DrewDavisHere #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Don’t give it all away at the beginning. Instead, continue to feed your audience’s curious nature.

Take, for instance, a mystery box. Believe it or not, people are actually buying these, having no idea what they contain.

Even more interesting is that there are over 40 million search results for “Mystery box reveal video,” meaning that these creators were so curious about what was inside they recorded and shared the unveiling.

Build Tension Over Time

The more tension you raise, the more your audience needs to see the outcome. @DrewDavisHere #CMWorld #Content Click To Tweet

Another essential step is to let the tension build over time. The more tension you build, the more invested your audience will be in the experience and the finale of the content. A great example that Andrew shared was that of BuzzFeed’s infamous watermelon video:


The team at BuzzFeed set out to determine how many rubber bands they could place around a watermelon until it exploded. This video is 44 minutes long (still think your audience doesn’t have time?) and has nearly 1 million views on YouTube and over 10 million views of their Facebook live video.

Ensure Your Content Has a Solid Payoff

As a consumer you’ve undoubtedly run into content that is not proportional to the tension that has been built. That, ladies and gentlemen, is called clickbait.

One of the worst things you can do as a content marketer is build a lot of tension that gets your audience invested, only to let them down in the end.

A good example that most of us might relate to is the show Fixer Upper. Chip and Joanna Gaines are the hosts of the HGTV hit series and find old houses in need of some TLC and do a complete remodel of the homes.

Each time right before the big reveal, the hosts pull back the curtain to show the new owners their updated home. They’re crying, they’re excited… but guess what? The show cuts to commercial and viewers have to wait until after the commercial break to see the actual results.

Grab & Keep Audience Attention

In the end, all of this is really about creating great content that your audience is interested in, delivered in a way that delights.

Thank you Andrew for helping all of us create more content focus that will truly pique curiosity with our audiences.  

What are some of your favorite examples of content that builds tension?

Stay tuned for more #CMWorld coverage and insights on the TopRank Marketing Blog. In addition, follow myself and the some of our on-the-ground team members on Twitter at: @TopRank @leeodden @azeckman @janebartel and @NickNelsonMN

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