Scroll Stoppers: Part 1 - Curate Expectations

Six ways hybrid working is changing our attention

Thanks for joining us. You’re probably here because you make content and want to be certain that it has the best chance of reaching its audience, right? Or maybe you manage a team of content creators and you want them to have the most up-to-date audience research.

But. You’re busy and it’s hard to read everything. So…

Attention Matters is here to help you stay on top of new audience behaviours. We’ll do this by sharing our own research and summarising the work of others. We’ll do this using formats that make reports easier to read, understand and use.

Our mission is to help your content get the attention it deserves. We’re building a community of content producers who are obsessed with understanding audience behaviour and generous in sharing their knowledge.

We’re kicking things off with the first part of our Scroll Stoppers report which we’ll be publishing here in six parts over the coming weeks.

Subscribe now to get the report delivered to your inbox in six parts.

Why are we releasing a report this way?

There are lots of reasons why we think this is a good idea, but here are just three:

  • Be honest. How many of you would’ve completed Season 1 of Succession if it was only offered as a ten-hour movie? Breaking this report into six small chunks makes it digestible.

  • Despite my best intentions, I’m probably never going to read all those incredibly useful reports I have in my Downloads folder. If only that folder would remind me every now and again to “read them because they’re really useful.”

  • Spoiler alert! Throughout our research, people told us they were overloaded with content. They value this content but need curators and clear signposting to get them to the good stuff quickly.

So that’s what we are doing here. You can read the report in six parts, here on Substack. It includes some quotes from people we spoke to, and from other research we came across, as well as survey answers. And there’s a nice little reading list for you to dive even deeper.

If that’s too much and you just want to dip in, download a summary of each part which should take less than two minutes to read.

OK. Here’s part one of Scroll Stoppers: six ways hybrid work is changing our attention. Leave your thoughts in the comments or reply to this email. We’d LOVE to hear from you.

Scroll Stoppers

Earlier this year something quite incredible happened in the world of radio. The signs were there for anyone paying attention. From the beginning of lockdown, radio’s long-reigning superstar, the breakfast show, started losing listeners to its mid-morning show. Many assumed everything would go back to normal once people returned to the office. The thing is, they didn’t. Well, not completely. And at the start of 2022, several major radio stations saw the number of listeners to their breakfast shows overtaken by the mid-morning show. Unless you work in radio, it’s hard to imagine what a seismic shift this is.

We’ve always been obsessed with audience behaviours at Storythings. So it’s no surprise that we’ve been keeping a close eye on how attention and behaviours have changed since the early days of the pandemic. But now, as we reach almost three years(!) since the first lockdown, we wanted to find out if any of those behaviours have become more established as we move into the hybrid era. If setting your alarm thirty minutes later can disrupt radio in such a way, what other behaviours should we all be paying attention to?

Let’s start here…

1. Curate Expectations

The paradox of choice is a funny thing, the idea that having too many choices or too many options actually makes us more miserable. And with all the splendour the content world has to offer—films, tweets, vlogs, newsletters, podcasts, Netflix originals, the list goes on—feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated is nothing new for modern-day audiences. A dilemma that only escalated during the pandemic. 

As we navigated extended periods of lockdown many of us not only had the time and freedom to engage with more content, but as the whole world moved online, we suddenly had a lot more to choose from. 

Now, as our work and social lives get increasingly busier, habits like online learning, infinite scrolling, and late-night Google holes are difficult to maintain. We’ve developed a self-awareness in the way we consume content and our research points to a reliance on others to help cut through the noise.

Without the time, will, or headspace to trudge through masses of media, audiences are actively seeking out people and platforms to curate content for them. As one of our interviewees puts it, “we need somebody else to tell us what is interesting. Newsletters are the new water cooler talks.” And there’s proof in the proverbial pudding. Our survey respondents explicitly called out newsletters as a go-to for curated content, alongside platforms like Mubi and Axios. While podcasts, articles, Instagram, and newsletters ranked as the four most popular types of content—all of which are frequently used for rounding up or recommending content, particularly from a personal point of view. 

Ditching the algorithm in favour of more personalised recommendations could also be a symptom of remote or hybrid working. Another interviewee notes, “when I was working in a studio space five days a week we'd have many of these moments where we shared recommendations, it just kind of happens in the moment. And I feel like that's something that we lost when we moved to working from home.” 

Whether it’s a resistance to information overload or an attempt to offset the loss in face-to-face recommendations, seeking out curated content is a behaviour we’re going to see a lot more of.

Reading list

Here are a few ‘Curate Expectations’ things you might want to read.

On Choice Overload and why we’re struggling with too many options - Choice Overload Bias - The Decision Lab (17 min read)

On Newsletters:  “The noisier the rest of the internet gets, the more popular the quiet, humble newsletter becomes.” - The Internet's Unkillable App (6 min read)

However not all newsletters are created equal: “It’s not peak newsletters — it’s the end of weak newsletters.” - Are We Past Peak Newsletter? - The New York Times (6 min read)

No Going Back - “Most of the connected world continues to grow faster than it did before the pandemic” - Digital 2022: Global Overview Report — DataReportal (40 min read)

On the Art of Curation: “Elements of surprise, discovery and deeper engagement — through hard-earned trust — are all linked to the art of curation” - Why Curation Is Key to Streamers Upping Subscribers - Variety (10 min read)

On Tastemakers: “The twinkle in someone’s eyes as they ramble about their new favorite show is something robots can’t yet replicate” - Are Tastemakers the New Influencers? - Lithium Magazine (6 min read)

On Algotorial: “What we’re really working towards is creating a more holistic understanding of listeners by optimising for long-term satisfaction rather than for short-term clicks, offering them a more fulfilling content diet.” - Adding That Extra ‘You’ to Your Discovery: Oskar Stål, Spotify Vice President of Personalization, Explains How It Works (6 min read)

Brief History of Curation: “Curation is a far bigger process than picking out what you like. Often you have to show stuff you don’t like in order to present the right perspective” - Curation: History and transition through the ages (5 min read)

Discovery in Music and Tastemakers: “discovery channels will continue to be created faster than they can be bought up, and tastemakers will rise faster than they can be silenced.” - Music Discovery: Breaking Down the Relationship Between Tastemakers and Discovery Channels (4 min read)

What They Said

We interviewed. We surveyed. We round-tabled. We read. We did a lot of listening. This is what what we heard

“Four in five (80%) UK respondents now feel that information overload – driven by factors including constant information 24/7, pervasive social media or too many apps to check each day – is contributing to their daily stress. This compares with just two in five (44%) who indicated in a similar OpenText survey conducted in March 2020 that information overload contributed to their daily stress.” (source)

“When I go to the office my media-related habits are much more similar to those pre-pandemic. When at home, it feels like during the pandemic.” (Research interviewee)

“Working from home made content more accessible, we do not have to wait to engage with it. If I do not have any meetings, I just turn it on.” (Research interviewee)

And it’s not just us hearing it. This is from Garbage day by Ryan Broderick

“The idea for the weekend edition came from the big reader survey I conducted in August. The number one thing people were asking for was just an easy way to cut through the chaos of using the internet. So I ran with that and it’s worked like a charm.”

In our survey, we asked lots of questions about what type of content people engaged with.

When asked, What type of content do you engage with? the responses were:

  1. Podcasts

  2. Articles

  3. Instagram Posts

  4. Newsletters

And when asked, What content qualities are you most drawn to? the responses were:

  1. Well curated 

  2. Thought-provoking

  3. Visually striking


Think about how you can curate experiences for audiences. Good curation adds context and lets people know why the thing you want them to see or hear is important. The range of content you include, and how you talk about it, defines your voice and personality over time. Becoming a smart filter is a brilliant way for building loyalty. 

Thank you for reading Attention Matters. Sharing this post will really help grow the community.

Thanks for reading the first part of Scroll Stoppers: six ways hybrid work is changing our attention. If you liked it, please share it with colleagues, friends, or anyone you think will find it useful. Leave your comments below. Subscribe to our other newsletters and .

We’re back next week with part two which is titled Mullet Media.