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A very interesting, long, link-rich, post on the atttention economy and ” attention scarcity” at Edge Perspectives with John Hagel. Midstream, Hagel observes:

“There is no question that the dynamics of the attention economy will redefine media economics and particularly advertising, but a more fundamental question needs to be addressed before we can gain a clear view of the implications for media and advertising: what is behind the desire to receive attention?”

This is an economic issue predominantly for those already ( by global standards) who are rich and safe and can afford to divert scarce resources toward ego fulfillment instead of satisfying more urgent needs. By definition, access to the internet creates considerable self-selection bias in a world where over a billion people subsist on pennies a day and a billion or so others enjoy a precarious status only marginally more secure.

Nevertheless, as internet use has now reached, possibly, a billion users, the aggregate effects of attention-related behaviors are certainly worth consideration. In Hagel’s view:

“But the discussion to date about receiving attention misses a couple of key points. First, there is a powerful dynamic between giving and receiving attention. In a world where more and more options are competing for our attention, we are unlikely to offer that attention unless something of compelling value is offered in return. We become much more selective and demanding in terms of who or what will get our attention.

…There’s a second dynamic that will reinforce the first. We all find ourselves in a globalizing world where we must find ways to develop distinctive and rapidly evolving capabilities. That is the only way to carve out sustainable livelihoods in the face of intensifying competitive pressure.
In this context, what we know at any point in time has diminishing value. We all need to find ways to tap into a broader set of experiences and perspectives to refresh our understanding of the changing world around us. To do this effectively, we need to receive the deep and sustained attention of those who have the most to offer and we cannot do this unless we can offer compelling value in return. If we cannot build deep and sustaining networks of attention (in other words, networks of relationships), we will find it more and more difficult to remain relevant and productive.

Together, these two dynamics create a self-regulating mechanism. In a world of attention scarcity, we will not continue to receive attention unless we earn that right. If we do not receive attention, we risk becoming progressively marginalized. Receiving attention becomes far more important than it ever was and will require far more effort than in the past. This is the strong message for the media business, but it applies much more broadly to all businesses, other institutions and individuals. In the process, advertising, at least as we know it today, will become less and less effective, no matter how creative we become at grabbing the attention of unsuspecting customers. “

Uhh..where’s my Ritalin ?

3 Responses to “”

  1. nadezhda Says:

    Sounds like they’re working thru the implications of the two main insights from the old Cluetrain Mainfesto: “markets are conversations” and “hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.”

    My favorite blogs that regularly explore what those insights mean in practice are by Chris Anderson, editor of Wired — The Long Tail (market niches) — and Hugh McLeod — author of the Hughtrain Manifestogapingvoid (business strategy and marketing). McLeod’s “cartoons on the back of business cards” are addictive.

  2. Dan tdaxp Says:

    Mark, have you read Global Brain yet? This stuff is covered in that, from the cellular to the social levels.

  3. mark Says:

    Hi Nad,

    I like the Long Tail too. It’s useful to venture out of the national security/strategy/foreign policy/military realm and see what market and business blogs are talking about. Usually, there are concepts that cross over well.

    Have you checked out BusinessPundit? Rob does a nice job there of concept spotting. I also read Nicholas Carr’s Rough Type.

    Hi Dan,

    Frankly, the end of the semester is beating my ass with the paper work. It’s cut into my blogging/reading/creative time; I’ve also started a long term project that I’m trying to devote time to lately in order to get it off the ground come August.

    Global Brain has been purchased but it is in a holding pattern due to research requirements. One thing I am in the middle of is van Creveld’s The Rise and Decline of the State, which when I finish, will free me to write a 4GW critique

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