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Email subscribers and their attention span deficit. Were you ever tempted to toss an email in your trash? Could you be having an attention span of a gold fish as an email subscriber? 

“I know what you did in your last Marketing campaign, do you?”

Jalena Pineda

Business Development Manager, Skillz Middle East

While technology is often blamed for shortening attention spans, email is not a culprit. In fact, the average time spent reading an email increased over the past six years, according to an analysis of billions of email opens between 2011 and 2016.

We’ve all heard the oft-cited (and oft-debated) statistic that consumers’ attention spans are shorter than those of goldfish.

Whether or not the measurement is accurate, it’s hard to deny that attention spans are decreasing… or are they? Have you heard of email subscribers who toss emails in their trash like a slice of a rotten vegetable?

According to an analysis of billions of emails, summarized in an infographic, Litmus found that attention spans, at least when reading email, are increasing.

The email company found that the average time spent reading an email increased from 10.4 seconds in 2011 to 11.1 seconds last year. That may not sound like much, but it’s a seven percent increase. Overall, more recipients are reading emails closely, and fewer are simply skimming them.

Mobile phones, Twitter, texting, video games, and other digital era trappings have been blamed for shortening our attention spans to less than that of goldfish. You might be tempted to throw email in that bucket…but you’d be wrong. According to an analysis of billions of emails using Litmus Email Analytics…

“The average time spend reading an email increased by nearly 7% to 11.1 seconds between 2011 and 2016.”

Honestly, we were more than a little surprised by this. We expected to find that email attention spans were shrinking. Instead, we found that the percentage of emails read for more than 18 seconds grew to 44.4% in 2016 from 38.4% in 2011.

We also expected to find that mobile email reading was the culprit behind shrinking email subscribers attention spans. That hypothesis was completely wrong, as the average amount of time that mobile users spend reading an email increased nearly 16% over those six years.

Historically, longer engagement with mobile emails wasn’t necessarily a good thing. That’s because mobile email subscribers didn’t always render emails well and brands didn’t always send mobile-friendly emails.

However, mobile email subscribers have improved significantly and brands have made huge strides in making their emails mobile-friendly, to the point that responsive is now the dominant email design approach. On top of that, mobile screen sizes have increased considerably, making email reading even easier. So the time spent with emails on mobile has increased during a time when the email subscriber or user experience and the email experience have both improved dramatically.

The gains in email engagement times have been fairly consistent. The average amount of time that mobile users spend reading an email increased every single year from 2011 to 2016. And seasonality didn’t appear to affect these gains, either.

Whatever the reason, the increase in email attention spans is impressive, especially considering the rise in ad blocking and ad skipping, and the decline in organic social reach.

The infographic, we explore how the duration of email engagement has changed over the years and how marketers can create emails that are optimized for short attention spans.

Check out the infographic below about “Email Attention Spans Increasing”, how subscribers are spending more time reading the emails they receive.

Increasing Attention Spans of Email Subscribers [Infographic]

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