Murdering the Attention Span


Just what we need: another idea to cripple the American attention span.

In a recent story on The Wrap, Dreamworks' Jeffrey Katzenberg was quoted from a speech in which he revealed an idea of how to further shrink the ability of audiences to pay attention for more than a few minutes at a time. He didn't put it that way, but that was the potential effect of what he was talking about.

He said that he had offered the creators of Breaking Bad $25 million to make three more hour-long episodes of the series. He was then going to break those up into 30 six-minute chunks, which would be sold as a pay-per-view item (no doubt to be viewed on a smartphone).

Thankfully, Vince Gilligan and crew passed on the idea. But even as he told this story, Katzenberg said, "I just think that there is a whole new platform that is this short-form."


Katzenberg is a smart guy, with an impressive resume of credits and accomplishments. But this seems like yet another in the long list of "advances" that serve to destroy our appetite for anything other than the quickest and most fleeting kind of stimulation, intellectual or otherwise.

Bookstores are dying, reading scores are plummeting and the quality of entertainment sinks like a stone, weighed down by the receding interest of Gen-X and millennial audiences in any form of entertainment that takes too long to watch or too much attention to absorb.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, one whose fuse was lit in the early 1980s when, within a year of each other, both MTV and USA Today were launched.

This commentary continues on my website.