You already know that listener attention spans are shorter than ever. It’s true. Consider that in 2000, the average adult’s attention span was 12 seconds. It has dropped by 33% since then, to 8 seconds. That’s shorter than the attention span of a goldfish:


That means that, at the most, you have to engage listeners in your content in less than the first eight seconds. At the eight second mark, they make a decision. Stay or flee. Tune in or tune out. They may not physically push the button, but they’ve tuned you out. And that’s just as bad.

That gives you 7 seconds to make an impression. That’s why, in Content Superhero 2: What Causes Tune In, we emphasize the importance of a quick start. You have their attention when the mic goes on. Keep it by leading them directly into the next content.

The brain reacts at lightning speed. We make decisions within the first three seconds about whether your content is worth their time.

These are emotional, gut decisions, not logical or calculated, and it impacts the appeal of your entire break. Consider these two EKG’s:

Bad hook

This break never has a chance because the hook is dull. It’s self-indulgent, inside and doesn’t relate. And it’s slow!

Now compare it to this:

good hook


This is relatable, listener-based and it’s a lightning rod for instant attention!

Hollywood has learned this lesson. Get details here on how the studio turned the movie Gone Girl from a potential flop into a box office hit by getting the hook in quickly.

In Content Superhero Chapter 1 :What Causes Tune Out, we demonstrated how personalities that bury the hook deep into the break at best fail to gain attention. At worst, they drive listeners away, losing as much as 50% of their audience to tune out.

In Chapter 2, we show you how that quick hook not only attracts attention but sets up a break to gain momentum and grow 1/4 hour share.

There’s no doubt that getting into meaningful content quickly and efficiently is valuable. Listener attention is at a peak when they’re engaged, and they’re usually engaged toward the end of a song they’re singing along with. That’s the best time to keep their attention.

But you have to work on creating great hooks. They must be:

Here are examples taken from actual listener research tracking moment by moment response to breaks.

First an example of a bad hook:


Content superhero EKG bad hook


Notice how the interest line just never gets traction? It’s flat. There’s nothing going on here. They don’t hook the audience. It’s not a boring topic, but it’s a boring break, mostly because they didn’t hook the audience.

Now look at this EKG:


Content Superhero EKG Great hook



This hook grabs the audience immediately. It’s engaging and gives this break momentum because the hook is instant. It has a chance to succeed, and look at how the appeal rises to the top, and stays there.

Now, here’s the scary part: You have very little time to win that attention. How little? 7 seconds. We call it the 7-second challenge.

Knowing this, doesn’t it make sense to put more emphasis on creating hooks during show prep?

In Chapter 1 of Content SuperHero, we share six important findings that cause listener tune out. We call it Content Kryptonite.

The #1 reason for tune-out is when tune-in never really happens. When they’re not paying attention, they get itchy fingers, and those fingers quickly find the scan button. That’s physically tuning out your station.

But there’s another, equally damaging type of tune out. It happens when the audience just isn’t hooked. They may not physically tune out, but are disconnected from the content. They may have the radio on, but they’re not hearing it.

When attention is not gained, they’re tuned out. And that’s kryptonite for personalities.

That’s why you need a quick start: A compelling, interesting hook that commands attention immediately.

That requires you to identify the most exciting, provocative and relatable essence of the break and get it on up front. How up-front? How about in the first 7 seconds.

Listeners tune out needless chit-chat at the beginning of breaks. Like those habits or crutches that get in the way of keeping the audience engaged. Things like:


All this chatter gets in the way of a quick start, yet many breaks are launched with weak content first, easing into the most compelling moments. This is a flaw in the preparation process.

Without a strong hook, what happens? Here’s an example:

Hook comes late


Notice that the essence of this break, the most compelling comment, starts at the 1:50 mark (you can see the increase in the lines. Almost 2 minutes in! Nothing before that was interesting. The problem is that by the time the hook was delivered, more than 1/3 of the audience had tuned out (pushed the red tune-out button on their dial).

This break never had a chance!

Listeners are vocal about what causes tune out, if we pay attention, but they use different words.

They usually just refer to it as too much talk. What they mean is too much meaningless chatter that doesn’t get to the point. Get to the point and engage them, and it’s not too much talk!