The Attention Economy

The Attention economy is all about paying attention. It is the idea that a person's time is worth more than money to marketers. There are over 500 channels on TV, all fighting for our attention - placing specific ads on specific channels that seem like they would apply to the viewers watching. For example, when you watch Nascar there are often commercials for oil during the program. This will appeal to the consumer because it is something that they will use and should get because nascar uses it. The same thing happens with XM radio: certain stations play certain commercials that they think will apply to the listener. Our time as individuals is worth a lot because watching a tv show or listening to a radio station will cause us to hear about things we want to get because we see our favorite tv shows supporting the product.

The internet is also an example of how the attention economy is coming into play. We often search for something on google and have severl relevant results pop up, as well as a bunch of things for sale that relate to our topic. ( ) The attention economy is also seen in many of the social networking sites we see everywhere on the web, such as facebook and myspace. Many companies place advertisements in the outside banners of these websites that are so frecuently accessed, because they know that these ads will get attention. The company is not making any money directly by these advertisements being on these website, in fact, they have to pay for these adervisements. However, companies believe if they are getting the attention of the viewer they will get more exposure, thus making money. These adds are not only seen on social networking sites, but everywhere all over the web. Major companies want our attention because it leads to more people knowing about their products and services. As we move into the attention economy it will become necessary to have data portability on the web. The way the web works now, we have so many different usernames and passwords, accounts with Facebook, Youtube, AIM, Google and all sorts of other addresses that have different capabilities. If all of this data becomes portable and interchangable it will form the next generation of the web, and data will become the online currency of the attention economy. The number of blogs in the so-called blogosphere of the web has doubled every six months since 2006. ( Futurists say we are on the verge of a social shift as vast as the one that brought Western civilization out of the medieval era. We are moving toward a world in which time, not material resources, is the scarcest commodity. What will life be like in this fast-approaching "Attention Economy?"

One industry that is slowly making the transition is the Pornography industry. This industry brings in money no matter what. If the economy goes down their membership rate goes up, and if the economy goes up their membership still goes up. Almost all porn sites still charge for membership. There are a few sites being made on the same idea as youtube but the people i have talked to about this feel that they still wont be as strong as the sites that charge.

The Attention Economy is also greatly affecting the way businesses operate. As businesses begin to change the way they operate in the attention economy, they are going to have to change their marketing and advertising campaigns. In today's economy companies spend mililons of dollars to run commercials on television. Studies show that people do not even take the time to watch commercials now, and some commercials only hurt companies' reputations in the eyes of consumers. As we transition into the attention economy, companies are going to have to find a better way to capture the attention of the consumers. Instead of general television commercials, companies are going to have to actually connect with the consumer and hold their attention in order to earn any profit the attention economy. One way that businesses and advertisers are trying to do this is by making their ads more specific. Have you ever wondered how the advertisement on the side of the website you are looking at displays ads for something in your town? Advertisers are using your IP address to get ads from your area so that they jump out and get your attention. The advertisement might also be something you are interested in based on what web site you are looking at. This is just one of the many ways that advertisers and businesses are developing new ways to grab your attention. Another way the corporate world is being affected by the attention economy is in regards to online accessibility. Every aspect of a company's existence and operation is often immediately accessible from an online source. At, for instance, you can order any of their hundreds of products right from the online store, and have them delivered the next day. The music industry is especially being affected by the attention economy. If companies cannot become immediately accessible from online sources, then they will most likely be dissolved. The free online radio site Pandora offers a shuffle style song selection of any artist, genre, or even specific one song searches. This site is entirely legal because users can only skip through ten songs per hour. Pandora exists because the money that the site makes on advertising, is worth more than the cost to compile, organize, and reproduce it's music to users world wide. Therefore users are literally paying for their music with the possibility that they may pay attention to the advertisements on the page. In this way attention is already being used as currency (Lanham, Richard A. “Interview with Richard A. Lanham.” University of Chicago Press. University of Chicago . 21 Nov. 2008 <>).

In a world where music's dollar value is losing importance and retrieving the newest songs is as easy as downloading a program, artists need to find new ways to get more fans and to convince people to purchase their merchandise and attend their shows. Bootlegging music has become very popular in todays changing world. Bootlegging is considered any music an artist puts out without charging for it. One example of this would be a website such as, which is strictly mixtapes released by artists and Dj's in order to attract more people to their shows or interest people in buying their merchandise. This connects to attention economy because the artist is not asking for royalties, all they want is the listeners' attention.

The fact that people are becoming more and more willing to pay for services that they can do themselves, in order to save time, is further proof that the economy is shifting to a place where time holds more value than money. According to one source, society has now been given a choice on whether or not we are willing to “sacrifice our valuable time to earn or save more money” or “spend the valuable money we work so hard to earn, to buy additional time”

We can find additional proof that we are moving into a attention economy all around us. Just one example would be Metro International, a swedish publisher, which launched its free tabloid newspaper in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Their hope was to make money off just the advertisments alone. However, this idea back fired on them terribly. In the third quater alone the comapny lost 4.4 million dollars. Some may wonder why this failed. The answer is that free papers cannot offer advertisers the mass aduiences (The Economist January 19th 2008). Another example of this is the Encyclopedia Britanica. This set of books was a high cost means of information which is now available online for free.

Attention is “the action that turns raw data into something humans can use” (Lanham, in Lankshear and Knobel, 2003, p. 111). Information is not scarce, attention is. Attention Economics establishes that what information consumes is the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it. (

Proof that the Attention Economy is emerging is in the increased demand for higher levels of user interactivity in software design. Programmers increasingly find
themselves needing to provide more complex behaviors in their products (About Face:The Essentials of Interaction Design 3, A. Cooper, R. Reimann, D. Cronin, 2007, Wiley, pp. 45).

Credit card debt is a huge problem in the American economy. According to Amy Williams, "banks wrote off an estimated $21 billion in bad credit card loans in the first half of 2008" (Chattanooga Times: Credit cards may be next to crumble, A. Williams, 2008, pg. 1). However, credit cards are not all bad - they can be used to help build up good credit depending on how quickly you are able to pay off the debt created by spending nonexistent money. Williams recommends a three-month time span for paying off debt (in order to build good credit), which is yet another example of how time is becoming more of a focus than money. This large economic debt is proof of Americans' habit of quick spending; People no longer care if they have the money up front to pay for something, because it is quicker and easier to pay with a credit card anyway.

“…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes” (Herbert Simon, Nobel Prize recipient). Information consumes the attention of consumers, which is quite obvious. As more and more information, such as advertisements, appear on the web, it becomes harder and harder to keep the attention of the consumers. The ads that we are used to are becoming outdated and are no longer effective. Pop ups, banner ads and other such advertising are losing attention of the web user. New forms of advertising are needed to grab attention more effectively and efficiently. One example of a more effective advertising method is context advertising. This is putting ads in specific locations, where the ads are directed to what the consumer is looking for. For example: A webpage consisting of a do-it-yourself oil change on your car would have ads in the text such as brands of oil or tools needed. Money is no longer as important as obtaining attention of consumers.

Here's rule number one ol' the attention economy: if I want to communicate with you (or market to you) I need to capture your atlenlion and earn the righl to keep il. You are also a marketer. Do you want your visitors to take action on your Website? Buy something? Sign up for your e-mail? Request a catalog? Your user also has a Netflix queue. You, too. are competing for some very scarce attention (Prioritizing in the attention economy. Becker, 2007).Two prfessionals identified three paired opposites as types of attention: aversive and attractive, front-of-mind and back-of-mind, and captive and voluntary. Plotting the strength of each of these types on the x and y axes of a graph produces an "AttentionScape" that identifies where and how intensely attention is being directed (THE ATTENTION ECONOMY: UNDERSTANDING THE NEW CURRENCY OF BUSINESS. Davenport, Beck. 2001.

There is plenty of evidence that supports the idea that we are moving into a different period that favors our attention, more than our money. But will we ever reach this era? Why do so many people want our attention? The reason why is because our attention, in turn, makes companies rich. This is why some people have reached the conclusion that our attention is worth more then currency. Because in this new era, companies that would have gladly taken our money before, are now offering free services. But do not be fooled by the freebies, these companies are still making money and as soon as they are not, our free services will not be free.

The attention economy in the future is going to be based on more advanced technology and money. People need to understand how to control their money and not spend it on stupid, idiotic things. The reason why our economy is so bad is because people spend money that they dont have, and go into credit card debt. That brings down the economy and makes it much worse. In the future everything will be based around one big computer that will control everything in the world, and hopefully make life much easier.

Just as we are seeing in the fast growing attention economy, we see today is in the entertainment economy. They are very much the same in many ways. Both require attention to be valid and survive. Attention through the years has become more and more scarce. In the average household today both the mother and father work. No one has time to really slow down and have a family dinner or watch a show together anymore. An example of this is what Wolf calls sitcom frenzy. In the history of television there has been three top shows; Seinfeld, Cheers, and Mash. Seinfeld got 76.3 million viewers when they aired their final episode in 1998, Cheers got 80.5 million viewers when their final episode aired in 1993 and Mash got 106 million viewers when their final episode aired in 1983. As strange as it may sound Seinfeld got named the number one sitcom. Even though television households grew from 83.3 million in 1983 to 99 million in 1998 the was still an audience decline of 30 million. Not only do we see the change in sitcoms but we also see the change all around us as well. Today is an era where we can buy videos at the gas station, best buy offers more videos and CD's than music land, there are more visits to Six Flags magic mountain than to Hajj and more people get the news from the internet than TV or the newspaper. In the easy years most markets were served by only a few stations, if you owned a newspaper you could count on cash piling up and there was no free market for baseball players, actors, writers or morning talk show hosts. The internet is another thing that has been affected by this new attention economy idea. Today there is no need to walk down to the corner store or to the newspaper stand, you can easily access the big morning article on your computer. Also local libraries are also getting affected because books are also easily accessed through Google. Communication is done by just a click of a button and classrooms are becoming virtual. Also not only can you shop for clothes and accessories online but you can also grocery shop and get your groceries delivered to your door. Physical contact is also being sacrificed as this attention economy develops. Scientists hypothesize that we, as humans, require some sort of human contact to remain in good health. ATM's are one example of how human contact is dwindling. Most people would rather go to the ATM down the street than take the five extra minutes to talk to a teller. Self service gas stations are another example. People will actually pay the extra money and pump their own gas than spend the extra time to get their gas pumped for them. The attention economy is approaching and it's affecting us in so many different ways. (Reich, Robert B.. The Future of Success. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. and Wolf, Micheal. The Entertainment Economy: How Mega- Media Forces Are Transforming Our Lives. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.)
As with any other scarce and valuable resource, markets for attention exist both within and outside an organization. As with other markets, some people do a lot better than others in the attention economy. Economies based on any scarce good have certain recognizable characteristics. For examples, every economy has markets in which its key goods are bought and sold. Both on the Internet an in more traditional media like television, viewer attention are exchanged for money thousands of times a day. Anyone who wants to sell something or persuade someone to do something has to invest in the attention markets. Another fundamental principle of an economy is that the currency has to be scarce. When the currency becomes too widely available, it becomes worthless. The biggest risk to the attention economy would be that individuals could expand their attention. Like other markets some people and topics do a lot better than others in the attention economy. (The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of business, by Thomas H. Davenport, John C. Beck)

The basics of economics are the foundations of the attention economy. Technology and the architecture of attention play an important role in facilitation of the marketplace. There should be technilogical standard and protocol for the Attention Economy but such standards do not yet exist because the Attention Economy is still a new thought in peoples heads. According to research, our implicit and explicit attention is captured in databases, and we get to decide which database we wish to use to hold our attention.

Compared with money transactions, there will be far more attention transactions. Money will not actually fade in value, instead, inflation will not set in, in the old sense; neither will recession or deflation. Instead, money will just lose importance, just like the names we went over in class, dukes and surfs. The stock market might not even fall. Instead, stockholders may simply lose interest, stopping all together to sell and buy.

"At the end of the feudal period, the pomp and display of the nobility reached a level never before attained; the most gorgeous armor, the most magnificent knight tournaments, the most elaborate ceremonies between rival nobles, the most brilliant marriages, the greatest interest in noble lineage. But by then it had lost all real function or importance. So today, when the stock market goes up and up, when money wealth itself seems a source of fame more than ever, when being number one on Forbes 400 list seems the height of perfection, when every basketball superstar wants a contract that is at least a million more than the last record one, we seem to be more dazzled by money than ever, just as we seem to be more intrigued by material goods than ever. But these interests are superficial and faddish. They are signs of decadence not of a glorious future for the money economy. Even in themselves they speak to the growing desire for attention, the need for it as well. Money is now little more numbers, one number among many, and as a source of lasting attention it can fade in an instant. The attention economy is already here, and more completely so every day."

As one source states, "It is becoming popular in our affluent society to rank income in attention above money income." This is further documentation that "Only relevant information will keep customers sticking around." (The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business, Alan Murray, Crown Publishers 2000)

You cannot deny the newer tactics of this information induced economy and if you go into knowing what it's made of, you'll realize it has changed from a sellers market to a buyers market. With you the seller being in control, great deals and great steals will come easily.

Now of days not alot of people have the time to do things because we are in such a time consuming economy. Since we do not have alot of time to do things we tend to relay on things that will give us quicker results such as the internet. The internet will soon in the future become a important and reliable source for people. The internet allows quicker results, saves time and allows online shopping of any kind to be done. Google will soon become the main source engine on the internet. There will no longer be all of these other usless sites. Google will be quick and to the point and very accuarte. There are however some down sides to the internet. Depending on what you are looking up on the internet, it may still be time consuming because of the results you have to skim through. Alsoif you have to much computer dependency, you could lose everything and have no way of recovering lost work. Searls, Doc. "That Intention Economy." Linux Journal 1-4.
If you look into the furture you will soon be able to see this change in our attention economy. In the future paying for attention will be the key, if you pay nothing you will get a robot and if paying top dollar you will be pampered until you're hearts is content.
Reich, Robert B.. The Future of Success: Working and Living in the New Economy. New York: Vintage, 2002.

The term "paying attention" is now changing it's meaning in most cases. It used to be that you would hear it when someone is talking about focusing and listening to something or someone. Now it is talking about paying people for their attention. You see it all the time now, people are getting paid to take surveys, ads on the radio or tv sometimes say mention this ad and get a discount on what you buy. Small things like that are what businesses look for; they want to know how you know about their product so that they’ll know how they should focus their advertisements. Just look for an example of this the next time you fill out a application or rebate type from it’ll ask you how you heard about them.

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