Navigating the attention economy

Researchers and strategists including Herbert SimonThomas Davenport  and Michael Goldhaber have deduced that we are living in an attention economy. Why is this? It stems from the fact that in this day and age there is an overabundance of information due to the rapid growth of web/digital media and technology. As early as 1971, Simon effectively articulated how an overabundance of information impacts attention:

“…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.”

In our information-rich world, attention is a scare and valuable commodity. So, how do we navigate this attention economy?

Surviving and thriving in the attention economy

Writing for The Media OnlineDavid Smythe notes that never before have brands had to work so hard for an audience’s attention.  “We’re moving away from a supply based media system influenced by marketers, to a demand-based media world driven by consumers … Before a brand can entertain or inform, its communication needs to be noticed,” he says. 

Smythe highlights various trends that can help marketers survive and thrive in this world:

  • Harnessing the power of Storytelling, storymaking and storybuilding. “Information that has been humanised and enriched through storytelling is persuasive and has greater memorability,” Smythe says. My previous post touched on the power of storytelling.
  • Ephemeral/momentary marketing. It can be reasonably assumed that attention starved and time deprived consumers will probably respond well to branded content that is fleeting, yet relevant. The rise of Snapchat is a good example. “By devising temporary marketing schemes, brands are appealing to a desire amongst people to consume smaller forms of content in a way that is both easy and efficient,” Smythe says.
  • Me marketing. Smythe notes that a prevailing trend suggests that every individual is now a marketer, and we all want to be marketed to individually. “There can be no more powerful way for a brand to capture attention by speaking to the consumer as if they were an individual with their own unique wants and needs … It speaks to the use of personalisation to guarantee sustained attention.”
  • Easing the consumer decision journey. Consumers are faced with too much information and are time-deprived. This leaves them feeling that they are not always making the right choices. Smythe notes that brands that become known for making the decision making process a little simpler will secure disproportionate attention ahead of the average.
  • Brand sacrifice. Smythe notes that in the 21st century, brands that sacrifice, or display some form of altruism, enjoy disproportionate attention ahead of the average. “More millennials than non-millennials integrate their beliefs and causes into their choice of companies to support, their purchases and their day-to-day interactions,” he says. “Sacrifices can be large or small; they can change the world or just the consumer’s world.”

Who are ‘attention workers’? 

In a paper for the Innovation Journalism journal, Vilma Luoma-aho and Saara Halonen describe the role of ‘attention workers’, or professional brokers of attention. They emphasize that as attention becomes increasingly scarce, the influence of attention workers rises. In this context, attention workers can include journalists, public relations practitioners, marketers, advertisers, lobbyists and other actors. They are professionals who aim to distribute information and knowledge effectively, increasing social capital in the process. Identifying and cultivating these attention workers could go a long way for organizations.

Look out for my next post, where I’ll touch on some challenges associated with the attention economy.


Photo: Copyright woodleywonderworks, Flickr

Humanitarian website a powerful example of online advocacy

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recently launched the 2015 Global Humanitarian Appeal, a consolidated appeal calling on all stakeholders to support people affected by disaster and conflict. The Global Humanitarian Appeal website serves as an excellent example of online advocacy and outreach. Here’s why:

Images move like a film reel, and as you scroll down, images and texts on specific country situations fade in, and the corresponding figures are automatically tallied up. As you scroll down, you see the total number of people to be assisted in 2015 increase at the top of the page, eventually culminating in the overall figure – 57.5 million people.

Powerful visuals
Supported by strong infographics and typography, the website shows you the faces of those receiving or in need of humanitarian support. It appeals to humanity and reminds us why humanitarian aid is so important.

Tangible data
1.95 million people displaced due to conflict and flooding in South Sudan. 12.2 million people in need in Syria. 57.5 million people in need across the globe. The figures speak for themselves. Who wouldn’t want to support humanitarian aid after seeing these figures?

Success stories
In 2014, 200,000 children in South Sudan were vaccinated against measles and polio in conflict areas, and 570,000 emergency shelters were provided in the Phillipines. Continue scrolling down the Global Humanitarian Appeal site and you will see various success stories, complete with powerful images and infographics. Success stories are a truly effective way of making a case for one’s cause.

Quick tips for effective content marketing

In the wide world of communications, nothing beats strong, well-written content. Great content effectively communicates your objectives and value to your stakeholders, with or without photos, video or other media. But in order to maximize the full potential of this great content, it needs to be sharable and reach the right people. This is where content marketing comes in. Check out these tips for effective content marketing.