The Attention Economy: Is the Marketing World Ready for a New Consumer Culture?


I look forward to a world where consumer data is harvested with permission, where the consumer has the option of assigning permission levels to their day, habits and data segments and look forward to the fair practice of compensating consumers for their attention data. I look forward to Attention Data Exchanges, consumer groups (think mutual fund) and segments being traded under symbols such as: BMR, SWF, BMM, APF, etc. Why do I look forward to this? Because it removes so many barriers to solutions.

One of the biggest side effects to the ‘AlwaysOn’ effect is dataglut. Too much data, not enough bandwidth to triage it all, let alone sort it for relevance in real-time. What will alleviate this problem is behavioral, contextual, inference and relevance engines. The technology itself already exists in some rather sophisticated forms and even more elegant iterations are coming out of R & D as you read this.

The technology is not the hurdle now, perception is. Granted, consumer suspicion regarding intention, integrity and security of their data considering the shoddy track record that on-line data tracking has with consumer. To that point, the first order of business with data managers is winning back the trust of consumers. A good beginning towards that end can be found at As this market matures, more standards committees and consortiums will be formed and best practices as well as policing agencies will emerge. These are all good things for both the industry and the consumer.

As trust and accountability increase, consumer comfort will increase, following that participation in AD programs will increase. As consumers discover that participation not only evolves their ‘interruption’ marketing experiences into ‘participation’ marketing experiences, but is a profitable paradigm as well. Ads that carry real-time relevance to a consumer’s life are no longer viewed as interruption, but rather views as information. This natural evolution will also enhance the relationship between producers and consumers, as well as diminishing the waste of scattershot approaches and volume messaging distribution.

As targeting gets better with time, a natural evolution, marketing and advertising itself will change fundamentally. Now, ads are offers that are delivered when invoked by the proper alignment of profiling information, time windowed behavioral statistics, contextual trails and situational relevance. No more ads produced and left at ‘strategic’ spots on a suspected trail. Now ads are built organically, dynamically, responsively (not reactively), and in real-time from a dynamic line up of assets, profiles, contexts and relevance scenarios. See why this ‘oh-so-near’ future makes me wriggle and pant?

My only concern is that bigger and better solutions always bring with them bigger and bolder opportunities for abuse. Unfortunately, the human race has both a light and a shadow side. The hacker in me says that abuses will only cause us to think of better and more secure means of conducting business in this brave new world, and that side of me is right, but that doesn’t ease the pain of people that become collateral damage in the infowars. We must always remain mindful that ‘consumers’ and ‘users’ are people and that in our zeal to deliver better solutions, that we don’t confuse ‘better’ technically for ‘better’ in a quality-of-life enhancing way. Because quality of life is what it’s all about.

Until next time, happy networking.

More reading:

Attention economics


  1. Joseph, you may want to check out PrefPass. It is another take on this kind of service. They let individuals register with them so they can manage their marketing preferences with a single third party, for multiple websites. It’s interesting, I signed up last year and have seen it appearing on several of the sites I visit. Arrington wrote about them also.


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