Every Piece Of Your Attention Is Being Monetized

Mitch JoelPosted by

Advertising is a data-driven beast with big money underneath it. 

Advertising is nearly half-a-trillion dollar business (you may want to read: The End Of Advertising (Easy There)). This doesn’t include ancillary businesses and/or the entire marketing technology industry (this is just the media spending side of things). Advertising serves one core purpose: generate increasing revenues by putting messages in front of consumers. There’s a famous saying that goes something like: if you can’t see the product, you’re the product. Well, it turns out that our industry has evolved this to a new level: Even when you can see the product, you are still the product.

How did the attraction and re-selling of attention – as a business model – come about? 

Many who think deeply about the media landscape often surmise that advertising (in relation to platforms like newspapers, etc…) could have been a mistake. That this, specific, business model is not only flawed, but should have never been. Because of this, publishers should move away from the ad-supported model and figure out new forms of revenue (get people to pay for content?). Easier said than done. Look no further than the Yahoo news this week. Over one billion users’ information has been hacked. So, even after Yahoo used their users to generate revenue from their attention, their personal data is now being spread out all over the internet, and available for others to buy and manipulate at will. Yes, your data – even after it was already monetized – is being moved to the black market and being re-sold (not by Yahoo, but it is still being monetized). Your attention was the business model, but it’s layered now with your data as well. From a less nefarious perspective, your data is often sold or resold within these large media companies for additional revenue (think retargeting and even affiliate marketing initiatives).

How did the harvesting of human attention for dollars happen?

This is the type of topic that Tim Wu has tackled in his latest book, The Attention Merchants – The Epic Scramble To Get Inside Our Heads. Tim is a professor at Columbia Law School, director of the Poliak Center at Columbia Journalism School and a contributing writer at The New Yorker. He is best known for his work on Net Neutrality theory (he coined that term!), as well as being the bestselling author of The Master Switch. In 2013 he was named one of America’s 100 Most Influential Lawyers. To help promote The Attention Merchants, Wu recently gave a Talks At Google, and it could well be one of the most important pieces of video content that you will watch this weekend.

Here it is: Tim Wu – The Attention Merchants – Talks At Google.