The New Currency: Attention

The web world revolves around attention. Around the globe, there are hundreds and hundreds of millions of human beings staring into screens. They surf sites, do email, wander from page to page, all in this glorious playground called the internet.

With the advent of web2.0, the observers have become participants. Your photos, music edits, carefully written stories, all can be dumped into the web in a flash. As Time put it – “you are the web”.

So, what’s your point?

In this article written in 1997, “The Attention Economy and the Net“, Michael Goldhaber describes unerringly the web of today. Don’t forget, ten years ago was before google, before broadband, before youtube! it was even before slashdot, so the extrapolations are based on a deep understanding of links and transience.

What is the Attention Economy?

Quite simply, everyone can put up a web page, so everyone is competing for attention. In this new online media, earning an income is driven by ads. If someone has a “better page” more people will go there, see more of his ads, and he will be more successful, ie better able to earn an income.

So we have to compete for attention. We get it any way possible – by getting a high ranking in search engines, buying links, whatever. But gaming the system only gets people to visit your site once. You need them to come back, and that is purely voluntary. You need to create a hook, great content, a warm environment.

The Whirligig of Attention

So all these people, all round the planet, jumping around, finding what works for them, telling their friends, making their own links. What is value for people co-agulates attention, and ultimately what rises to the top is the result of a process almost akin to random sampling.

So when you get to a page you like, pay attention!

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