The Attention Market

Attention is the new currency.

Publishers, smartphone app creators, and journalists have one goal: to steal as much of your daily attention as they can. In exchange, they get money from companies that advertise on their content or directly sell a product or service. This environment creates a sort of stock market where people buy and sell your attention and attempt to redirect it in a profitable way.

Unlike the stock market, this attention market is completely unregulated.

There are very few rules, if any, that prevent companies from using deeply addictive psychological strategies to keep users coming back. Within that free market, with so many organizations competing for the attention of their users, the sketchiness of the methods to accomplish this seem to rise meteorically.

Every app you install now asks to send you notifications. Why on earth would most apps need to distract you from a conversation you’re having or a book you’re reading? Because they want more of your attention, more frequently.

Niche news sites create content that infuriates half of its audience and provides confirmation bias to the other. This causes both sides to share the post out of both boasting and what I might call the “can you believe this #$@%” share. Which, as discussed previously, wins the attention game and creates more ad revenue for the offending site.

Those sites don’t care who reads them and they certainly don’t care if you agree. They just want numbers and ad revenue and they’re succeeding.