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In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson in Publishing Perspective on December 8, 2017.

Eliza Filby: ‘An Attention Span of Eight Seconds’ While the energy of that “Big Ideas” session was lacking at the end of the day, historian and “millennials expert” Eliza Filby’s closing keynote tied well into the day’s initial call from Richard Johnson for audience awareness, understanding of the entertainment dynamic’s importance in publishing.

Filby’s task was to describe “Generation Z,” represented by her in some instances as a 16-year-old today named Zoe: publishing’s next incoming young adults, in other words. A litany of contrasts and comparisons washed over the audience as Filby called out one characterization after another. Generation Z, for example, she said:

• Has no idea what its generation “stands for”

• Comprises “our most entrepreneurial people”

• Is a “recession generation,” more realistic than the optimistic millennials

• Truly believes in diversity, as the most racially and sexually diverse in history”

• “Understands data protection” and loves Snapchat because the transmission disappears

• Uses social media platforms to broadcast

• Has a better (than millennials) sense of themselves as a collective

• Suffers issues in mental health more than in physical health

• Sees itself as experts because the world’s information is at their fintertips

• “Looks up and unplugs,” not as tied as millennials to screens

“The novelty” of books for Generation Z, Filby said, is that books get them off those screens into a less noisy, safer context for reading.

But publishing, she warned, in what would be the last contrarian, cautionary comment of the day, is going to have to make the reading space “more invigorating” in order to capture Generation Z as readers. Why? Because, Eliza Filby said, millennials have 12-second attention spans while Generation Z has “an attention span of eight seconds.”