December deadline: Another trip to Maiduguri

It was neither a vacation trip nor a tour for seasonal ceremony. It was a journey to attend a crisis communication seminar for humanitarian workers and journalists covering disasters which was held in Maiduguri in the first week of December 2015. My family members could not dissuade me from the trip that hopefully would provide me another opportunity to assess one of the Boko Haram worst-hit cities in Nigeria.

The flight was smooth from Abuja to Maiduguri. Driving into the town, it was easy to observe that the city wasn’t bubbling as most roads were deserted, exotic mansions abandoned and fine hotels had low patronage even with their generous discounts on accommodation.

On a visit to the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps, the sights of orphans and widows were quite disturbing even though NEMA and other stakeholders are taking good care of them.

Passing through security check-points, the sacrifice of Nigerian troops, especially young soldiers in their zeal and determination to defeat Boko Haram terrorists, was obvious from their faces. While some of them are bachelors with parents, others are married with children they left at home to defend Nigeria.

Incidentally, almost everyone was concerned about the Presidential directive for the military to end Boko Haram this December. During the inauguration of his service chiefs on July 13, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the military to end the Boko Haram terrorism in three months.

Immediately after the directive, the National Security Adviser, NSA, Major General Babagana Monguno led service and security chiefs to the frontline to seek the cooperation of community leaders, traditional rulers and pressure groups to support the new drive against war on terror. He also visited and commiserated with IDPs and reassured them that the war would soon be over.

The Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai has not led from the back, he was in the warfront by actively participating in some of the operations where terrorists were either captured or killed. He has so far spent most of his time on the battle field. The Chief of Air Staff, Air Mashall Sadique Abubakar has personally commanded fighter jets in the war on terror to motivate fighter-pilots into putting in their best.

The Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, has ensured effective coordination and cohesion in the operation so far through mechanism of inter-agency collaboration, even as the Chief Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas has also confirmed that Special Forces from the Navy are actively involved in the operation.

The military has so far destroyed dozens of Boko Haram camps and freed more than 1,000 kidnap victims since inauguration of President Buhari. Nevertheless, there is the fear that the military may not be able to end Boko Haram by the deadline. The Executive Secretary of Centre for Crisis Communication, CCC, Air Commodore Anas recently disclosed that there is nothing wrong in imposing targets on the military but due to the asymmetric warfare which Boko Haram is prosecuting against civilian “soft targets” the December deadline is unrealistic.

There are also worrisome reports of fresh kidnap of dozens of girls and burning of buildings in Bam Village of Yobe State; reported missing and fleeing soldiers in Galtumari town in Borno State; destruction of military base in Gulak, Adamawa and media allegations that terrorists snatched military trucks, artillery guns that were bought by the previous administration.

During private conversations with stakeholders, many expressed beliefs that concerted efforts are required through credible intelligence to address the insecurity in the North-East.

Beyond ‘body languages’ theory and political grandstanding, others were of the opinion that some tougher actions taken by the past administration could be deployed in curtailing the excesses of terrorists. For instance, a journalist observed that even though many doubted the sincerity of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, when he sought and obtained approval for postponement of 2015 general election to enable the military to degrade Boko Haram and ensure maximum security of voters, all known terrorists’ camps were destroyed before the emergence of new government on May 29; Sambisa Forest was stormed by “Special ‘M’ forces” and about 300 kidnapped women and children were freed; 22 terrorist occupied towns in three states were recovered; and Boko Haram could not disrupt the elections.

It is public knowledge that some of the towns recovered from terrorists during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan include Abadam, Askira, Baga, Bama, Biu, Damboa, Gwoza, Hong, Konduga, Kukawa, Marte, Madagali, Michika, Monguno, Mubi, and others. In fact an official statement by the Defence Headquarters on March 16, 2015, with reference no: DHQ/ABJ/901/32/DDI announced the routing of terrorists from Bama after massive casualty was inflicted on the terrorists before the remnant fled. The statement further stated that the Chadian partners in the MNJTF were mandated to pursue the terrorists who were heading for the borders after being dislodged from Bama. Gujba, Gulani, Goniri, Buni Yadi were all retaken by Nigerian troops within the month, the statement concluded. It seems Nigerians have forgotten all these.

By Yushau A. Shuaib


Say it quick, say it well – the attention span of a modern internet consumer is very short!

The age of multitasking and quick fixes, get your message out quick and streamline your website to grab the attention of the modern internet consumer.

With the rapid adoption of smart phones and tablet computers and the expansion of free Wi-Fi, hotspots, and reliable 3G we live in an always on world. You only have to take a look around you in any public location, be it a coffee shop, supermarket, or on a commuter train to see that people are accessing the web on a constant basis. A 2011 AOP website usage study showed that a UK internet user visited 2,518 web pages across 81 domains and 53 sessions in November 2011. That’s a lot of content!

This is great for web based businesses as it means their audience is not only growing with each technological advance, but is also reachable 24/7. Whereas previously you may have been relying on key consumption times when people were able to be sat at their computer, now you have a consumer who you can reach with your product all through the day.

This always on world and the huge amounts of content available on the internet has significant implications for the modern day consumers attention span. It has even greater implications for the generation of people who have never known anything but high speed broadband and internet access, the future adult consumer. A recent Pew Internet study in the US suggests that while students coming through the schools system in this always on world benefit from instant access to a wealth of information from numerous sources, their attention span and desire for in depth analysis is consequently diminished. The current generation of internet consumers live in a world of “instant gratification and quick fixes” which leads to a “loss of patience and a lack of deep thinking”.

In a world of instant gratification and where an alternative website is just a mouse click away website owners need to find ways to firstly grab the attention of a user, and then keep it for long enough to get your message across. If you don’t, their cursor will be heading to the back button and on to a competitor in the blink of an eye.

Methods for doing this are nothing new. In fact most of them have been learnt from traditional print media where grabbing the attention and making the key points easily accessible and digestible is something that is built into how they structure their content. Yet many websites do not follow the main rules for engaging the always on generation.

So what rules should the modern day publisher or website owner be following when structuring their web pages in a world of short attention spans?

Don’t make people wait for the information – before even looking at how you are going to present information on your web pages you need to make sure the page loads as quickly as possible. Studies have shown that 32% of consumers will start abandoning slow sites between one and five seconds. Bounce rate can be improved by up to 30% with the reduction of page size and resulting speed improvements. A one second delay in page load time can result in 11% fewer page views, 16% decreased customer satisfaction and 7% lost conversions.

Include key information upfront and begin with the end in mind – a time poor website visitor is looking for instant clarification they are in the right place. By including key information up front you can convince the user to read on rather than exit to another information source. By deciding what you want the reader to take out from a page, you can tailor your upfront copy accordingly.

Use bullet point for key facts or USPs to make them stand out and be easily digestible – a well-known method for making key information easy to locate and eye catching, however far too much website content if built around paragraph after paragraph of text.

Use sub headings with descriptive wording to enable users to jump to the appropriate section if they wish – the modern day consumer will scan a page to try and pick out the piece of information they are looking for. By understanding how users scan web pages and having sub heading which are descriptive to the section content you enable users to easily navigate your content and find the relevant section for them.

Keep page content short and punchy and split any detailed content out into secondary pages if applicable – with the limited attention span and desire for instant gratification of the modern day internet consumer just seeing the scroll bar shrink into oblivion can be enough for them to not even start reading a page. If you have lots of content on a subject split it out into relevant, easily digestible pages that allow people to read one piece without necessarily having to continue on to the next.

Use rich media and alternative content presentation to keep users attention – the use of video as an online communication medium is well documented. But also think about other ways of representing information such as images, graphs and other visual forms. Novelty and the presentation of something that is new and unexpected is one of the key elements of the Reticular Activation System (RAS) which focuses attention. Playing to this trigger through the representation information in alternative forms will help you get your message across effectively.

Present information in a logical, sequential pattern – another element of RAS, by presenting information in a logical sequence helps to keep the attention of the user and allows you to take them through some logical steps to conclusion and get all of your key points across.

Tell the reader what they need, and want, to know, and no more – it sounds simple but far too many people don’t follow this rule. You want to tell a consumer, or prospect, everything they need to know, but once you have done this, stop. If your goal is an online transaction then get them to this point and present them with the option to purchase. If you are producing information give them all the top line stats they need to get your message across, and leave anything supplementary for those that chose to find it.

If conversion is your goal, make the path clear – once you have made your pitch, and given the user all the reasons they should purchase your product, make it clear where they need to go next. Too many website go through their sales pitch and at the point where they have the reader hooked it is unclear how a user goes from intention, through to action. You need to present the user with easy routes through to conversion once they are convinced they should buy from you. Again, understanding how users scan and view web pages will aid in where and how you should present your calls to action.

And the final point in operating a website in a world of short attention spans is to use the data at your disposal.

Almost all analytics providers will provide you with data on bounce rates, pages visited, time on site, time on page and many other measures you can use to optimise your approach to content. The leading providers will also show you where users clicked within a page or where their mouse hovered giving you further indication of what they were looking at and how you can tailor your pages accordingly. There are numerous free tools you can use such as Google’s site speed tool which can help you understand where you may not have optimal performance.

By using all of the tools at your disposal and following the rules above you should be able to cater for the always on generation and prosper in this modern day world of low attention spans.

Rob Weatherhead is head of digital operations at MediaCom. He blogs at and tweets at @robweatherhead.

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You Are Your Content

Love to blog but struggling with what to write? Whatever topic your blog is about, remember the most important content you have is YOU. As you write stuff, realise the no.1 thing the reader is interested in is you – the person writing it. If they wanted a straight up objective article on [insert topic here], they’d go to an industry giant. That’s the beauty of blogging. You have a sea of digital strangers who become friends as they read your stuff. They want to know your take on it; your views. When they read your material, your personality must shine through.

It took me a long time to realise that blogging should be fun, personal and informative. On top of that, posts don’t need to be long. There’s a great article I read in the Guardian online. It was a post titled “Say it quick, say it well.”

A 2011 AOP website usage study showed that a UK internet user visited 2,518 web pages across 81 domains and 53 sessions in November 2011. That’s a lot of content!

So how does this fast digital age affect YOU and YOUR BLOG?

1. Keep your content short + sweet

Choose a topic, do your research, use bullet points. Stick to one idea with any post. Don’t give people too much information, too quickly. For ideas on how to make your posts interesting, link in from other places and use quotes from credible sources.

2. Keep it personal

Remember you are the personality behind the blog. Here’s the beauty of this new digital age: there’s a blurred line between where your blog’s content ends and where YOU begin. This is great because people like people. They like your content, but they also want to get to know YOU. Your readers are a cyber community of friends with shared interests you haven’t met yet. This gives you the freedom of writing stuff in your own voice. It gives you the freedom to share personal stories and go off topic in an appealing way if you like. You can capture your target audience in a personal way and still be effective. Make sure you’re authentic across the board. Get comfortable with who you are and your audience will be relaxed and encouraged.

3. Create resources other people find good

If you want to make money off your blog, you need to have the kind of traffic advertisers recognize as significant. Only then can you make meaningful earnings. To get the numbers, you need maximum exposure. To get that, you need informative articles which people feel is worth sharing. Check out my 20 Ways To Get Serious About Blogging.

4. Figure out your ideal reader + your content will present itself

Do some in-depth research about your target audience and marketing angle.

The better you understand your customer, the faster your business will grow. But new ventures often struggle to define their target market and set their sights too broadly.


5. Align your business brand

Your blog is a business (if it’s not, it has the potential to become one). You write your blog. You became a public “personality” the minute you began your blog. Write from your own point of view and be open to audience interaction 24/7 on all your platforms. In the blogging world, your personal truth becomes your blog’s brand. People who enjoy your blog will come back. They become your “customers”. The angle of your brand should be the same all over (your “angle” is YOU). Become familiar with your truth. Once you’ve decided on a logo/name/colour scheme/writing style you like, make sure it’s the same all across all social platforms. This doesn’t have to be forever, just for a while. You need to innovate at some point, but keep the same colour scheme/logo for at least a couple months. Consistency makes your brand familiar and more trustworthy, which increases the likelihood of converting.

6. Think about how you help your audience

What is your intention behind the blog? Is it: to help, to entertain, to provide a service? Once you’ve decided, remember it when making a post. Ensure you have a clear intention when you create an article and that you put time and effort into doing it.

7. Look to other platforms for content ideas

What inspires your posts? Run different series each month in line with your industry topic. If you don’t have a specific topic, think about your categories. Make a schedule for posting articles within each category. For ideas on your articles, look to platforms like Pinterest, Google, Industry websites, News Websites and Google Search Trends to see what people are searching for the most.

8. Leave your audience changed

The biggest part of any blogger’s job is to leave your audience changed in some way after they read your post. If you can inspire them, help them achieve or help them grow, then you have succeeded. Whatever your content is, if you can leave your audience positively changed, they will come back.

Say it quick, say it well – the attention span of a modern internet consumer

Media organisations must adapt to cater for a generation of internet consumers who expect ‘instant gratification and quick fixes’

Rob Weatherhead is head of digital operations at MediaCom. He blogs at and tweets at @robweatherhead.

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. To receive more articles like this direct to your inbox, sign up to become a member of the Guardian Media Network.