The Attention Economy

Is attention a new currency?

This seems to be a question that frequently gets asked in one form or another by old and new media participants.

I believe that attention has become a more liquid asset than before.  50 Years ago, when CBS was broadcasting a show, any individual’s attention to it mattered, but only to a certain extent. Any attention lost by CBS would likely go to ABC or NBC, and conversely, CBS benefited from all lost attention by ABC and NBC.  It was a closed system with no newcomers.

Fast forward to 2005.  Media is extremely fragmented, and getting more so by the minute. Technorati is tracking about 20 21.3 million blogs and that number is doubling every 5 months, according to David Sifry.

Simple economics.  Demand (population) grows slowly, supply is exploding.  Price of content is headed down, which means, the currency with which you can "purchase" content (explicitly here, I am speaking of advertising-supported content) is getting more valuable.  That currency is your attention.

I am  beginning to think about this in further depth.  Fortunately, there are many who must see enough (either economic or intellectual) value in this area and there has been some brilliant thinking.

Tom Davenport, who may have coined the term "The Attention Economy" has a good book on the topic, co-authored by John Beck.

Umair Haque explores the impact on the consumer.

– Seth Goldstein, who has recently founded Root has been thinking quite a bit on the topic.

I am very interested to follow the progress of Root.  Seth’s blog’s tagline is "Somewhere between Wall Street and Madison Avenue lies the future of both".  I suspect he’s hit the nail on the head.


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