The capability to harvest and become merchant’s of not solely people’s attention, but also have them pay attention, increase their attention span, and favorably influence that attention…are highly sought after intangible assets. I know of no business or organization dependent on (building, sustaining) an effective, competitive, and lucrative online presence that is not increasingly willing to devote substantial resources for the sole objective to favorably influence online user activity.
Columbia University law professor Tim Wu…in his new book The Attention Merchants makes an intriguing suggestion, ‘people should consider conserving their attention’. This argument emerges from the view that ‘human mental space is consistently being hijacked’ by an intricate and sophisticated array of online global harvesters and merchants of attention, ala social media.
To be sure, there are challenges, especially when – if the ‘harvesters and merchants of our attention’ become inclined to ‘play fast and loose’ with facts, truths, and realities…relative to how particular-events, behaviors, and circumstances are made to fit the attention acquisition process. As innocuous as this may initially appear to some, it has become the primary – proven strategy for targeting, eliciting, and ultimately acquiring the level of human attention purveyors and buyers of that information-data are seeking. Ultimately, products are being built – code being written, to repeatedly cater to and harvest people’s attention as merchandise.
Put another way, the product of ‘attention harvesters and merchants’ is human attention…the data harvested – retrieved about human online attention has become extraordinarily valuable commodities, highly sought after, and readily sold through attention merchants, i.e., whomever-whatever acquires and holds that data. By no means would it be a stretch to conclude a significant portion, if not all of Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony before U.S. Senate and House Committees could be viewed through the lens of an ‘attention harvester and merchant’.
Whether it is intentional or unintentional, the commoditization and monetization of people’s online attention…and the infinite amounts of personal data specifics harvested therein, it should not be surprising this represents a, if not the, primary business model associated with social media company operation. Is this not the over-arching rationales that sparked the U.S. Senate and House hearings, as-well-as the upcoming European Union hearings on social media personal data privacy, sure!
Arguably, a risk to being a harvester and merchant of human attention…is that, at some future point, people may be less influencable and/or their attention becomes directed elsewhere, perhaps to new types of media platforms, At which point people will begin the process of turning the now, conventional messaging platforms out, in favor of whatever is new and different. Should (when) this occurs, of course, it will translate to a loss of value, revenue, and power for the conventional (social media) platforms which have not adapted, suggests Professor Wu.
And, to think some people still argue intangible assets should be dismissed, not developed or valued…to those I say, consider what’s very much in evidence now, and for the foreseeable future, whatever it may bring!
Michael D. Moberly May 3, 2018 St. Louis firstname.lastname@example.org ‘The Intangible Asset Blog’ (http://kpstrat.com/blog) where attention span and action really matter!