Attention is the new commodity

Aggregators operate in the distributed information network and cater not to the passive audiences of legacy distributers, but to the market of one, us. Aggregators can utilise information flows to eliminate the limits of space and scarcity, to find and share content that is considered niche.

Because aggregation eliminates the tyranny of space, online stores like Amazon are not confined to stocking only popular content favoured by most of the offline masses, their shelf space has no limits. Unlike distributors, aggregators can target the long tail, the 80% that make up the market of niches.

Now that content is widely available for free or virtually nothing, it has become worthless. What has gained value is people’s attention. If value shifts from content to our attention, then things associated with our attention become valuable, and therefore, sellable.


Mitew, T 2014, The Attention Economy and the Long Tail Effect [part 1], online video, Youtube, viewed 27 August 2015,

Mitew, T 2014, The Attention Economy and the Long Tail Effect [part 2], online video, Youtube, viewed 27 August 2015,

Mitew, T 2014, The Attention Economy and the Long Tail Effect [part 3], online video, Youtube, viewed 27 August 2015,

Mitew, T 2014, The Attention Economy and the Long Tail Effect [part 4], online video, Youtube, viewed 27 August 2015,

Mitew, T 2014, The Attention Economy and the Long Tail Effect [part 5], online video, Youtube, viewed 27 August 2015,



8 thoughts on “Attention is the new commodity

  1. Hi Jacob,
    I like the inclusion of Amazon as an example from the lecture as it’s market allows a more stable market for trends and ‘fads’ to go in and out of with the consumer. The info graph is really helpful and clear in detail to draw on what attention economy is all about, and something i’ll save and use later in my references. It’s interesting how peoples attention can have such a powerful influence on the market and how content is become valuable due to interest. After discussion about the video rental stores in the Wollongong area, this article was interesting in the predictions in the future of these stores with the advent of such sites like Netflix and the whole media circle. Great post!

  2. If Attention is now a valuable commodity, then how you gain that attention is the most valuable service. Therefore, advertising – or methods to direct our attention – might become the most valuable service on the internet. Then again, it already has been for while. You suggest we value Attention over financial value but attention has the prospect of financial benefits. So really, it’s always been about how we make money for our content. The difference now is it’s not a direct flow. Kevin Kelly defined this value generative as “Findability”. One of 8 generatives that could support free content. Attention might the more obvious value because it supports advertising, but 7 different models of value do not rely on the findability of it to be of value.

  3. Hi Jacob,
    I completely agree with you. Attention is king. Particularly in a time when multi-tasking between various digital platforms at the same time has become commonplace. As much as we both consume and produce content in a active two-way engagement process, have we become so bombarded by content that we have reverted back to times of traditional media where we sat, watched and listened passively (how many forced Youtube advertisements do you actually remember watching). This then reverts back to you notion that attention is king. This journal article titled ‘Competing for Attention: An Empirical Study of Online Reviewers’ Strategic Behaviour’ may be of some further interest to you –

  4. Hi Jacob,

    You have described the essence of the long tail phenomenon extremely well. I love the infographic you have made – it is helpful to see the content of the week explained visually!

    I found this really interesting blog where design thinker and entrepreneur Tristan Harris describes how people make apps in the attention economy (see here: I think a statement he makes brilliantly sums up the whole idea of the attention economy: ” [it is a] ruthless competition to seduce our deepest instincts to get more of people’s time – a race to the bottom of the brain stem.”

    People designing and making apps and websites aim to get people to spend their time by playing, clicking, sharing – all in order to ensure the competitor does not take their attention elsewhere. Harris, however, does not want to be distracted – he wants a world “that helps me spend my time well”. Harris is working on a “Design for Time Well Spent” movement, promoting the idea that designers have a moral responsibility to be careful about the billions of minutes and hours of other people’s lives they effect. I think this is a very interesting area which will gain more momentum, particularly as the effects of the attention economy on individuals and their time/work-life balance etc become realised.

  5. I love this post, it describes aggregators extremely well and now niche markets take up the majority of the market! the infographic is perfect for assisting with the text and the ideas around it and is clear and precise in the content. It will be interesting to see where the future of content goes when copies flood the market even more so. The only downside i see to your infographic is the background makes the text a bit hard to read and i’ve been squinting at my monitor a bit longer than i should (this shows how interested i was in your post). All around a great post and i cant wait to see what else you having coming up for the other topics!!

  6. Hey, nice post, love the infographics. What do you think about the current attention economy? Do you think it’s just a part of the world we live in now? In my opinion it’s okay in it’s current state, but some of the proposed idea’s (look up mesh network blocking etc) are going a bit too far. Do you think the ‘productization’ of us as users is okay in general? You raise some really good question I didn’t think of during the lecture. Thanks 🙂

  7. Hey Jacob,
    Great job with your post and infographic! The graphic really highlights the key aspects of the new content dynamic of the internet – from passive audiences to active producers of content.
    I agree that since there is just so much content available on the internet individual pieces become seemingly worthless, therefore highlighting the value in our attention. However, an aggregation of content is only valuable because of the pieces that contribute to it. Yes, maybe only 100 people in the world care about the Yellow-bellied Sunbird, but those 100 people would search and produce content that is valuable to the whole aggregation. Furthermore, the content those 100 people produce would be very important to the other 99 individuals that share the same interest.
    So, yes, the aggregation holds phenomenally more value as a whole than each niche could ever hope to, but the people in those niches would place higher value on the individual sources of content.
    It’s like pieces in a puzzle: the whole picture can’t exist without its pieces, but the pieces themselves are not without their own function or value.

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