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“Too much info… I’m overloaded” - What is attention economy?

02 Jul 2019

The attention economy is an interesting concept that helps us understand several of the new trends in business and online advertising. It comes from the world of information management and consists of considering human attention a scarce resource, something easy to understand if we consider the state of information overload prevailing.

Obtaining and maintaining the attention of an audience is a growing challenge, and many of the current marketing efforts are directed towards that direction.

We tend to talk a lot about the importance of attention as a key variable and how it influences marketing in today's world. Do we really understand what we are discussing? Why is it so important? We will try to organize a series of ideas on this topic; attention economy.

ATTENTION (according to Wikipedia): Attention is cognitive and behavioral ability to voluntarily focus on a piece of specific information, whether deemed objective or subjective, on the other hand, ignoring other perceivable information. (...)

Attention as the quality of perception refers to the function of attention as a filter of environmental stimuli, deciding which the most relevant stimuli are and giving them a priority by means of the concentration of the psychic activity on the objective, for deeper processing in consciousness.

The simplest way to understand how the attention economy works is a basic assumption of the advertising world, so primordial that it is a tacit premise of any communicative situation: in order for a message to reach its recipient effectively, its attention is necessary. The difficulty that the present world presents is that we are exposed continuously and by diverse channels to all class of contents, to such point that some theorists do not hesitate to characterize to this time as the "Era of the Information". While the stimuli we receive are unlimited, our attention does have a limit, so it becomes scarce and increasingly expensive to obtain for advertisers.

The user saves attention

The public is aware of this phenomenon. He knows that he has before him an unlimited source of information and limited time. For this reason, it usually makes increasingly rapid decisions, allocating the minimum necessary attention to judge the contents presented to it. The phenomenon is even more evident if we consider phenomena such as multitasking, whereby attention is divided among different activities, making it even more volatile.

via GIPHY

Many Internet users, for example, do not read the full content of an article but read only the headline and the first paragraph. That information may be enough to decide to take some significant action such as clicking or share it on social networks. Content creators take this into account more and more. Some usual traps are the "deceptive" headings, which appeal to ambiguity or exaggerate to generate a wrong impression and favor the reader's click, or the tendentious writing of the articles, sometimes introducing at the bottom a clarifying note indicating that all the information that has just been read has recently been disproved. But the hook can be an image too.

Capture and retain

Capturing the attention of the public is only the first step because its scattered nature implies that, with great certainty, it will tend to abandon us easily, so that there is a new challenge, that of retaining what we have achieved. The ability to capture and retain the attention of mass audiences has become a value in itself, and it is for this reason that some platforms or online services are bought and sold at exorbitant amounts without having even generated a single dollar in profits. What they have achieved is the attention of millions of users who have become accustomed to using that platform or service.

This is an important sign that success has been achieved in obtaining attention: the habit of the user. Open a certain social network daily, visit a specific blog every week, view each of the new videos of a channel that we like, or check the news of a certain portal is all valuable behaviors, instilled in the user by force of marketing.

They would not reach several books to account for all the ways that marketing offers to retain attention, but there is a particular business model that accomplishes this task in a fascinating way because of the number of tools it dedicates to it, how it has perfected them, and the level of engagement it gets, to the point of generating a kind of addiction in the user.

Google as the best example of managing the economy of attention

Things get more interesting when we realize that managing attention is not just a problem for learning. It is also a big problem for marketing and the media (places where people are informed) and for any entity that wants to communicate with people (advertisers, political parties...). The drop in attention - due to the oversaturation of information we receive - harms their economies. In addition, consumers know that in a world of abundance, the lack of relevance of information can be replaced very quickly by another that is (with just a click).

Therefore, in the economy of care, it becomes increasingly important to satisfy people by offering interesting and relevant information that is, offering valuable information. A happy consumer rewards you with their attention, or gives you their data (exchanges happiness for privacy) or gives you their money. Any future business that wants to coexist with the economy of care must be based on communicating interesting and relevant information to its consumers.

via GIPHY

The best example to understand the economy of attention is Google. Have you considered the keys to the success of the Google search engine? It was precisely to understand the keys to the economy of attention. In the entry screen, you do not have too many distractions. It only asks you what it is that interests you. You have no stimuli to distract yourself. You write what interests you. The result is the combination of information that interests you (what you are looking for), organized by order of relevance. The key to Google's success is the combination of interest and context, so our attention is assured. 

 


 

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