Attention is the True Currency Online


The online world is indeed a strange place. As we’ve seen, Moore’s Law eliminates us from having to worry about space and cost (for the most part), as the expense to host content essentially falls to zero over time. With the cross over to the digital world we get away from limiting factors like physical space.Which means this explosion of content provides infinite amounts of choices online and the cost to produce this content continually falls by the relentless forces of technology advancement. Witness how Moore’s Law has made smartphones and high-end video cameras affordable to the masses.
With the removal of space and money as a constraint, we start to have to consider the true economy online – that of attention.
Our users, customers, or fans now have an infinite amount of choices online on where to spend their time. They can be endlessly entertained on YouTube or conversing with family on Skype or checking out Facebook.

Demise of Traditional Advertising

In Chapter 1, we saw how the rise of traditional mass media was built on the broadcast method. In exchange for consuming content for free, customers were bludgeoned with advertisements. They would endure interruptions if the content was great but also in part because they had so few options on where to invest their time. Basically, it was a few radio stations or three major television networks up until 1970s. Cable television fractured this for television in the 1980s but with more choices came more targeted ads. People could tune into what they were interested in (i.e. ESPN for sports fanatics) but it still came at a cost for their time.
Today, that is no longer the case.
As an empowered consumer, we can now create our own custom broadcast channels. The following tools are tearing down the big three of broadcast media.
  • Television – DVR, Hulu, Netflix streaming
  • Radio – Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody
  • Newspaper – RSS, Blogs, Tablets

While not all these services are free (many are ad supported), Moore’s Law and the mass scale of the web permits a consumer to pay a very small fee to completely tune out all advertisements. For many, the cost of a few bucks a month is worth it to be free of all such interruptions when they sit down to consume content.

All this has resulted in the fact that we are increasingly getting spoiled and no longer will tolerate getting interrupted by companies pushing a message. In a sense technology has given us back our freedom of choice as consumers. We decide when, where, and how we will interact with a brand – if we choose to interact at all. This rapid change has caught industries entirely off guard. The advertising model worked for decades and hummed along just fine. Until it didn’t. So, as digital marketers we have to be fully aware of this competition for attention. We have to deliver not great but remarkable experiences. We can no longer focus on competing on price. The Internet has stripped away this as a competitive advantage. Amazon is only a click away with its massive economies of scale to deliver a product at a price that make it nearly impossible to compete. No. We must sit back and ponder designing the experience of interacting with a brand or product. When we fail to think on this, the user is gone back to the search results page, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or StumbleUpon and we are left scratching our heads on why our brand is failing to grow. In short, brands have not been in control going back to the early 2000s.