Attention economy is an interesting concept from information management that helps us to understand some current trends in online business and advertising. The basic idea consists in considering human attention a scarce resource, due to the modern phenomenon of information overload. Getting and keeping the audience’s attention is an increasingly difficult challenge and most of the marketing efforts focus on this problem.
The underlying principle of the attention economy concept is so fundamental that it is a basic premise for any communicative interaction: for a message to get to its addressee, we need his attention. The problem is that nowadays in the “Information Age” we are continuously exposed to all kinds of contents and advertising through all kinds of different communication channels. We are faced with a massive and increasing amount of stimuli, and our attention is always limited; it is becoming more scarce and much more difficult to get for advertisers.
The user saves attention
The audience is aware of this phenomenon. They know they have sources of unlimited information and limited time to “process” it. That is why the users tend to take snap decisions and invest the minimum necessary time to judge what is presented to them. The effect of the attention economy is clear when we analyse new human behaviours like multitasking.
Some internet users, for example, do not read the full content of an article, only the titles and the first paragraph. That information could be enough to take the decision of making a comment, sharing the article on social networks or forwarding it to a friend.
Content publishers are also aware of this. Some usual tricks involve writing clickbait headers that exaggerate or appeal to ambiguity to make something appear more interesting or shocking than it really is. They create a false impression just to get the user’s attention and his coveted click. Sometimes the whole article provides false information and at the end there is a small disclaimer stating that all the information has been recently debunked.
But the bait could be an image too. Thumbnails are powerful tools to grab the user’s attention, something that youtubers know well.
Capture and retain
But capturing the user’s attention is only the first step. Attention is capricious and we could lose it quite easily, so we have to learn how to retain it.
Knowing how to capture and retain attention has become a value in itself and for this reason some online companies are being purchased for millions of dollars even when they have not earned one single dollar in income. They only have one thing and it it very valuable: the attention of millions of users who have chosen to use that specific platform, app or service.
An important signal of success in capturing and retaining an audience’s attention is analysing the user’s habits. Using a social network on a daily basis, visiting some blog weekly to check what is new, watching all the new videos from a YouTube channel, reading the news always on the same website or buying take-away from the same app are all user behaviours that we know as consumer loyalty: the ultimate achievement in marketing.