Are You A Ninja Clickbait Hater? Pointless Second-Screen Microsoft Study Could Reveal All

You could be forgiven for thinking that Microsoft had gone all BuzzFeed on us today with the launch of its Attention Spans study, including a game you can play to find out what type of person you are. Ninjas are good at focussing on the task at hand because they are "in the zone," while Pragmatists can move more fluidly between different tasks and screens. The Attention Ambidextrous are a mixture of both, able to concentrate hard or flick between media and devices when required. For what it's worth, I took the test and I'm a Ninja. Sounds pretty cool and probably confirms my wife's view of me being hopeless at multitasking. 

It must be said, however, that as with research studies there is quite a bit of nonsense in there because at different times we're surely all three of those personality types. In addition, there is advice on how to reach these different people that includes immersive narratives for Ninjas, giving pragmatists original, quality content and being short and to the point for pragmatists. Aren't those good tips for content placed in front of anyone? And how would an advertiser know which type of person they are speaking to? If they're going after second-screeners, how would they know whether they're reaching out to a pragmatist or a ninja? Come to think of it, how would they know they're appealing to a second-screener at all, unless they are advertising on television with a call to action based around a search term or hashtag?

The problem with studies such as this is they make more out of a finding that is actually there because -- let's face it -- they need to have some headlines to make the research appear worthwhile.

My favourite with Attention Spans is a finding that millennials are good at keeping their attention on the task in hand because they have grown up with digital and so are less distracted when they need to concentrate. In fact, one in two are good at this, the research points out. Anyone else thinking that means half are good at it, which presumably means that half are not? That surely means there is no finding there -- half of millennials can concentrate and not be distracted, the other half can't? So it's a coin toss, surely. 

Similarly, those in the over 25 category (yes, people over 25 are all in the same age group) are equally good at being selective and flicking between devices and tasks -- which, again, leaves us with no finding. In fact, the only observation I could see that made any sense was that people who do a lot of second-screening get better at dividing their attention between different tasks and screens.

By all means take a look at the study and you can even find out if you too are a ninja. I seriously wouldn't read to much into the research though, because if you're attempting to reach the just over four in five of who profess to multi-screen, some common sense should come in to play. Chances are a second-screener actually has another task in hand. They're more likely to be quickly checking email and Facebook or seeing who just followed them on Twitter than they are looking to be advertised to. So short, sharp, compelling messages and content are the order of the day. 

If you're reaching out to second-screeners you're not a part of an experience, you're almost certainly interrupting another task -- and so the only difference from when the person only has one screen is that content must be even more worthy of their attention to compete with the television. 

As for targeting different types of people based around their attention spans, I wouldn't read too much into that because even if there were some truth in it, you have no way of knowing which BuzzFeed style persona you're targeting. 

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