Get ready for the Attention Economy
May I have your attention, please?
We’ve got people and organizations attempting to gain our attention all day, every day, at home, on the road, anytime, anyplace. The challenge is to maintain our focus despite a barrage of distractions – most of which we’ve invited into our lives, implicitly or explicitly.
(An audio alert on my phone just told me I have a new email. Do I keep writing, or do I check it? Since only about one out of 10 emails I receive is worth opening, I think I’ll keep writing – even though the little voice in my head is repeating, “Could be important!” It’s not important and I know it. To prove the point, I’ll check my inbox and be right back.)
(Yep. Junk. Where was I? Oh, yeah.)
Since we opted in to nearly all of the tech-delivered interruptions, we should be able to opt out just as easily. Unfortunately, the interruption sources propagate at a rate that rivals that of your average, everyday bacteria in an agar-encrusted petri dish. As we make our way through this information-cluttered world, it’s getting harder and harder to focus.
Put yourself on an information diet
We couldn’t possibly take in all the information that our senses pick up. Our brains have been filtering our sensory input since day one, and maybe even in utero. It’s as plain as the nose on your face, which your brain renders invisible to you – until you put a bandage or clown nose on it. Lifehacker’s Tholin Klosowski quotes Clay Johnson, author of The Information Diet, as emphasizing the importance of considering the source of the information before we even bother digesting its content.
To be most effective, our information filters have to be trained to let in only the material that is truly important to us. Two techniques for improving our focus are memorization and note-taking. If we take the time to memorize a situation – not just a chunk of text or a song, but also an entire scene or an event – we’re forcing our brains to pay attention, according to Scientific American’s Maria Konnikova.
Likewise, when we attempt to recreate in text and/or pictures some scene we’ve witnessed, we’re forcing our brains to delve deeper into the matter, to pick up details that we likely missed from our initial impressions. Time Magazine’s Annie Murphy Paul cites a line from Field Notes on Science and Nature by Harvard University entomologist Paul Canfield:
“When you’re sketching something, you have to choose which marks to make on the page. It forces you to make decisions about what’s important and what’s not.”
When you subsequently encounter a situation similar to one you have memorized or made detail note of, your brain more easily identifies the situation as one you’re likely to find important. The converse may also be true: If you’ve ignored something 10 times, your brain could more easily ignore it the 11th, 12th, and 13th times you encounter it.
Spend your attention wisely
For young people in particular, the value of attention is increased due to factors that are generally beyond their control. Blogger Adam McLane writes in a May 6, 2015, post that teenagers are much less likely to have jobs these days, so they depend on others for their “disposable” income. This means the money they do get to spend themselves isn’t as discretionary as it would be if they had earned it through their own efforts. Likewise, young people rarely have control over their schedules, so they have fewer choices about how they spend their time.
The most valuable asset young people still control is where they place their attention. In the “attention economy” McLane describes, whatever gains our attention has the most value. Web sellers are adept at attracting the attention of web buyers.
Eschewing the web numbers game
Which brings me to the point of this week’s sermon: Page views.
Success on the web is measured in eyeballs. The more times the pages on your site are opened, the more money you make, generally speaking. A page opens, ads are displayed, and the site owner gets paid by the advertising network based on the number of impressions recorded. This principle is so ingrained in the online world that it is considered a given.
This week I got an unsolicited critique of my incredibly modest website from an online marketing maven who offered me some free advice on how to “improve web traffic and increase revenue.” First, the site is in dire need of a redesign because “websites are capable of so much more than what your current site offers.”
The expert did give me a backhanded compliment: “Your current website reads more like an encyclopedia rather than a marketing platform… [Y]ou need a ‘Call to Action’ to make people WANT to call or contact you.”
Um, don’t take this the wrong way, folks, but I’m not 100-percent certain I WANT you to call or contact me. Of course I’m delighted to hear from readers, but I’m not doing this in order to get you to respond to me personally. I’m just trying to serve as a resource that helps keep you informed about things I hope you find interesting, useful, or a combination thereof. Kind of like an encyclopedia. So, thanks, web-marketing lady!
At least Frank Zappa and I finally have something in common: We both have No Commercial Potential.