What is the Attention Economy missing?
First we had the industrial revolution, then we had the information age. Today, we are in the attention economy. As online content grows increasingly abundant and immediately available, attention becomes the limiting factor in the ability to consume information. Albert Wegner, a VC at Union Square Ventures wrote, “As individuals, we too often lack a purpose other than making money and we will happily watch another cat video in our limited free time than read a challenging book. Over time, we will get better at all of this and it will let us achieve amazing things as humanity, including free education and healthcare for everyone and cleaning up the mess we have made of the planet. But none of that will happen as long as we keep ourselves trapped in a belief that capital is scarce and that everyone needs a job.”
Let’s break that down further, shall we?
In today’s digital world, content is loosely defined as the images, texts, and videos that you click, scroll, tap, or swipe onto your screen. But, if just limited to e-mail, Instagram, YouTube, and e-commerce, the Internet would be an amalgamation of pipes and cables. But not all content is created equal. And the only thing that limits your ability to tap into the abundant, but elusive, quality content that’s out there is your own attention.
Every minute, 300 hours of video is uploaded onto Youtube. Every second, 5 more hours of cat videos exist on the Internet. Meowch.
With the sheer volume of content being uploaded and shared, the only limiting factor is your time. Once you take away the time spent working and sleeping in a given day, you’re left with 2 to 3 hours of idle time. It’s no wonder that, according to a Nielsen Global Survey, 52% of Baby Boomers admitted to using technology during their meals.
There is only 24 hours in the day and Information pollution is the externality for the attention economy.
There is more content to consume than there is time to consume it. You’re not so much surfing the Internet as you are swimming through a tsunami of content.
But recently, there’s been a growing movement to do something about the information pollution that clogs the atmosphere of our minds. Mindfulness retreats and digital detoxes have become increasingly popular. Ad blocking technology attempts to filter out unnecessary noise on the Internet. In fact, according to Google, search volume for the term “mindfulness” has increased along with “ad blocking”:
Mindfulness is not a new concept, but an old concept wrapped in shiny packaging. With roots in Buddhism, mindfulness promises better performance at work, better decision making, and improved productivity. The meditation alternative health care industry has amassed more than $13 billion in annual revenues and is set to grow 5% year-over-year for the next 10 years, according to research conducted by IBISworld. You can now even advertise to an audience that wants to be more mindful. How meta is that?
There has to be a better way
The sum of our idle moments is greater than its parts. We have less time than ever to do what we want to do, yet we have more content than we know what to do with it. By selling attention to the highest bidder, advertisements distract rather than improve our life. However, if we can somehow indicate to the web what we want to be doing with our idle time, we won’t need ad blockers or mindfulness gurus.
The promise of the attention economy is that anything is possible with focus. We have to feed our ambition with the right fuel and read, listen to and do the things that will turn our passions into hobbies, our hobbies into habits and habits into our craft.
At Idle Opus, we understand the relationship between customer empathy, data, and growth. We’re frustrated with the current state of marketing. The signal to noise ratio in the field of marketing annoys us – a lot – and we’re committed to improving it. We break through the noise to inspire audiences, not “sell them” as consumers.