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Are our attention spans getting too small?

Do we have too much choice of content? Do contemporary films have too much of a niche audience? Are we losing our patience with movies not targeted at us?

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Are our attention spans getting too small?

Posted on 29/11/2019 by Maddy Goddard

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This blog is something a bit different, but seeing as almost all of our consultants have written in their bios on our website that they enjoy watching Netflix in their free time, I thought this could also resonate with a large amount of BWD’s audience.


Netflix's newest creative trial:

Not every film appeals to every audience member. Especially now that Netflix even produce their own films for online viewing, making them accessible to pretty much everyone, but not necessarily targeted at their whole audience.

Their newest trial, to be able to speed up and slow down shows on their platform, has got some very negative reviews, from not only filmmakers, but actors too, saying that the ability to do this is destroying their art and all their hard-work.

On some levels I agree. Why would you sit down to watch a film and not appreciate it in its full, especially if it is a first-time watch? But instead, skip through it in 1.5x the speed. I know that personally, as a film student, I look very closely at cinematography, editing, scriptwriting, production and acting specifically, and agree that I wouldn’t get the same effect if I were to watch the show speeded up.


Is it a good idea?

However, people may have better things to do than watch a 2-hour film. If they really are the correct audience for the film, wouldn’t they watch it in the cinema on first release anyway? Shouldn’t people be spending less time watching films and more time being in the present with our friends and family? Couldn’t we learn more if we could watch more films in less time? After all, we only retain less then half of what we watch in a film anyway.

Most of the times I watch films, bar being in the cinema, I am completing other tasks too, or sat on social media anyway. Maybe this could be a chance to actually watch the film in a fuller way rather than being distracted by our surroundings.

I can normally guess the whole narrative of a film less than 30 minutes in (especially as most films like to please audience expectations and therefore write endings that audiences will enjoy guessing correctly). Wouldn’t this make the process of sitting through low-budgeted Netflix films even better? Less attention needed, less distractions, less time wasted, less electricity used. More time for being productive. And if it really is a good film, you would hope the targeted consumers would appreciate it in its full. I mean… it’s not as if you couldn’t fast forward on video tapes or DVD’s…


Is there too much niche content, or are our attention spans getting smaller?

Society today like to make the most of their time, they don’t want to sit through something that doesn’t mean anything to them or doesn’t give them the escapism they desire.

We have more choice of products. We have more choice because we are all active audiences. We have more access to everything because we all own mobile phones, TVs, tablets and laptops. But we don’t necessarily want to watch every piece of media out there, because for the majority of shows and films, the audience will be niche. Multiple times in a month I end up scrolling through Netflix for as long as an hour trying to find something good to watch, or rather, something specifically targeted at me.

Not every show suits everyone’s demographics and psychographics. Media texts for mass audiences just don’t really exist anymore. There is so much more freedom, and because of this, people will choose.

Our attention spans are more or less the same, but we know we can do better than choosing to sit through a 2-hour film that isn’t specifically targeted at us. Which is why platforms like Netflix exist in the first place; accessibility and availability. No scheduling, no waiting for a new episode every week, no time limits. You can watch what you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, however you want, for whatever reason. What more could you want from Netflix?