Competing for attention in the age of multi-screening

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Every Sunday I settle in to watch the weekly installment of my favorite TV show, Attack on Titan. Before I press play and begin the episode, I do one of two things: I put my phone on “do not disturb” mode or I place it in another room entirely. Both are ways to silence any distracting notifications and isolate myself from other screens. For this particular program, this is my preferred media consumption environment, fully immersed.

Conversely, I will often spend time playing video games, listening to a podcast or watching a YouTube video and scrolling through social media on my phone—all at the same time. Despite how it may sound, this is actually quite a pleasant and relaxing experience. This is a situation where, for me, consuming all this media across all these screens does not result in a diminished experience.

We all have different preferences when it comes to how we consume media, and how many screens we divide our attention between at once. It turns out, a growing number of us are more than fine “multi-screening.” According to a study conducted by TheSoul Publishing, 71% of Americans regularly multi-screen while relaxing.

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“This is up by 13% when compared to 2020 (63%); however, older generations are less likely to multi-screen with only 45% of those aged 55 or older engaging in the practice compared to 71% of those aged 16-24, 82% of 25-34 and 77% between 35-44.”

The study’s authors posit the rise in remote work could be a factor in these changing habits. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, content creators should be aware that they increasingly may not have their audience’s undivided attention.

It’s entirely possible that you are reading this post while half-watching a video. Perhaps you are even passively refreshing your Twitter feed, waiting to find something else that catches your eye.

If you’re a blogger, is there anything you can do to counteract this? Not particularly. We are in a time where people are surrounded by technology and overwhelmed by choice. This is unlikely to change any time soon.

What you can do is strive to create impactful posts geared towards your readers—that’s what will get them to stop and listen. Here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Make your posts scannable

This is something we already preach, but this is just another reason to really ensure your posts are scannable. The goal here is to make it easier on your readers to read your posts, not harder. If you make it difficult to read your content, your readers can always start paying attention to something else and move on.

What does scanability look like in blog post?

  • Short paragraphs (anything to break up long chunks of text, really)
  • Subheaders
  • Bulleted or numbered lists
  • Block quotes
  • Images

These are all features we try to utilize here on 99 Park Row as often as possible and you should feel free to use this post and our archive as reference points.

What scannability does not mean is that you should simplify or water down your content—just the opposite. Improving post scannability will elevate content that is already high-quality—it alone will not engage readers.

Meet your readers where they’re at

The rise of multi-screening means it’s harder than ever to predict where you’ll reach readers. This applies both in terms of how they’re finding your posts on the web and what device they’re using when they do.

Make sure your posts are showing up in the places your target audience already lives online. Whether that be on a specific social media platform or in the search results, you want to place yourself in front of your audience any and everywhere you feasibly can.

It also cannot be overlooked: you really do need to ensure your blog looks as good on a desktop computer as it does on a tablet or a phone. I’m working on launching my personal blog at the moment and the fact that the LexBlog platform accounts for this has been a huge relief.

ContentQuality is king

The habit of multi-screening means that your audience is being inundated with opportunities and lures to engage with other media. Often this will happen simultaneously to them reading your posts.

In this battle for attention, if your posts are of high quality you are going to consistently tip the scales in your favor. An engaged reader won’t be pulled away.

When it comes to what makes content “high quality,” that’s a bit more nebulous. In my view, a quality blog post should add something to your readers’ lives. That “add” doesn’t have to be profound, it may simply be a bit of entertainment and some useful information—but that’s enough. Readers will respond to this kind of content.

When you put in clear effort to create something of value, it will be evident to readers. Media literacy is ever-increasing among internet users and people are getting much better at differentiating the good from the bad and the real from the fake.

Desperately vying for a reader’s attention with click-bait headlines is not going to create a lasting impression or a sustainable relationship with readers. Mass-produced, ghost-written or otherwise low-effort content put out for the sake of publishing something is not the path to go down—even if it may produce superficial results. Readers will ignore this kind of content.

As the great Jedi Master Yoda once said of the dark side, it is “quicker, easier, more seductive.” But in the end, it is not stronger. The same is true in blogging—putting in the work is the path to success.

Alec Downing
About the Author

Alec is an intern on LexBlog’s publishing team where he creates content for the company’s various digital platforms. A former radio news anchor, Alec brings both a background in journalism and a passion for law. Alec has the eventual goal of attending law school—and of course—starting his own law blog. His writing has been published in The Seattle Times and Crosscut.

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