What is the attention economy?

The attention economy became a popular concept in 2001 where Thomas Davenport and John Beck used it to explain the shortage of attention and how to explain it. In 1971 Herbert A. Simon pointed out that attention abides the laws of economics and said about the increasing supply of information “…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it” (Simon 1971, pp. 40–41).
As all of us only have 24 hours each day, what we pay attention to in this era of incredible information and content creation becomes a commodity and your attention has perceived price to you and so does it to a business looking to advertise to you.


How do you use the attention economy to your advantage?

Perhaps you connect with one of the daily tasks of going over your emails, today it’s rare to open them all (even if it’s just for the day) since information flow has gone up to such extremes. Anyone with a phone or a computer can create content and distribute it which means among other things that email campaigns increase. Now as emails fill up your inbox and continuous email campaigns are being created and launched a vicious cycle emerges.


  1. New email campaigns
  2. Your inbox fills up
  3. Decreased time to open them
  4. Decreased purchase frequency
  5. Need for better results
  6. Repeat step 1


To fight this cycle you need to build your marketing strategy with respect to the data that exists and those you collect through your marketing efforts.
First off, it’s harder to capture attention but when it’s been captured it’s important to keep it, we do that by realizing that the attention we got is from a person like you and me, we want value but value is subjective so the more you know about the person the better, also know your marketing medium. Imagine you have 20 new emails unopened today, are you hoping “god, I hope one of them is a discount or an offer for something” or “I can’t wait to see what new free trial I’m getting today” most likely not, so why would your target audience want that? Before you start talking about how good free trials are and how you’re providing value, you still need to know where that person is in the sales funnel for it to work best. I value your time and you do too, let’s create ads that make our time worth more, like reading a good book or watching our favorite show, it’s not all amazing all the time but it’s trying its best to increase the value of our time. Marketing that is personalized and provides value becomes more effective and is even cheaper in most cases.

  1. Know your audience
  2. Grab their attention
  3. Provide value
  4. Create an appropriate CTA

As the person you are advertising to moves further down the sales funnel you optimize your marketing based on that creating content and CTA suited for them.


As consumers we all live in this attention economy so we are all on some level tired of advertisements that we have no interest in or don’t appeal to us as a consumer, in business we want to spend our marketing budget in a cost effective way to those who see value in what we offer.

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