One of the byproducts of the digital age is that our collective attention span is a lot shorter than it ever was before. If something doesn’t grab us immediately then it’s highly likely that we’ll skip right to something else that does. This is outlined by a recent study regarding skip rates of songs played on Spotify, which pretty much verifies something that we all inherently knew.
Back in the old days when radio and records ruled, we tended to watch or listen to just about any program for a much longer period simply because of the time involved to find something else that appealed to us. This began to change back in the days of analog car radios that gave the user the ability to program multiple stations so we could skip from one to the other with the push of a button. The choices were limited but at least we finally had some relatively quick control of the content we consumed.
This trend was accelerated when the television remote control (then known as the “clicker” because of the noise it made when you operated it) was introduced. No longer were we tied to a channel because it took too much energy to get up and manually change the channel from the television set controls. Again, there weren’t many choices in those analog days, but we didn’t need that many either. Having the freedom to quickly change between the big 3 networks was enough.
In music, the CD was a big step forward in instant-access since we could quickly move from track to track with just a button push instead of manually resetting (usually inaccurately) the turntable arm on a vinyl record. And then came digital where the skipping mentality ramped up quickly.
With MP3s we were able to scan our personal library to select the exact song we wanted to hear, then quickly move on to something else when we had enough. Streaming music took things another step further to where we are today. In a world of single songs from a catalog of literally tens of millions, they’re offered to us by playlists and recommendation engines.
And because it’s so easy to skip from one song to another, we do and we do it often. Music blogger Paul Lamere analyzed billions of plays from millions of Spotify listeners all over the world to discover their skip rates. Here’s what he found:
- 24.14 percent likelihood of skipping to the next song in the first 5 seconds.
- 28.97 percent in the first 10 seconds
- 35.05 percent in the first 30 seconds
- 48.6 percent skip before the song finishes
What’s more, the average listener skips 14.65 times per hour, or about once every four minutes, and females skip slightly more than males at 45.23% to 44.75%.
The mobile skip rate is 51.1% while on a desktop it’s 40.1%, suggesting that listening on a desktop may be more background to another task, which again makes sense for the world we live in today.
What’s interesting is that skip rates change with age. Teenagers, who have a notoriously short attention span, skip “well above 50%” of the time, while older listeners have skip rates of about 35%. And people tend to skip more on weekends than during the week, which means that when they have more time, they pay attention to the music more and are more willing to keep skipping until they find something that they like.
The fact of the matter is that it’s become much more difficult to get a consumer to enjoy an entertainment program of almost any length from end to end. We’ve been given the ability to choose quickly from extremely large catalogs of product, and we’re not going to stop until we find something that captures our attention for at least 30 seconds.