Negotiations: Currency of Attention

Now, it’s reasonable for me to expect that the site requires a revenue stream. It’s reasonable to expect that there’ll be some way to monetise my presence there. But that’s it; that’s where the line is. In every other context in life, I get to choose whether to participate in the resulting transaction. With advertising, though, you’ve made the decision for me – in fact, several decisions: the means, format, and currency of exchange.

It’s the last one that’s particularly troubling. Without even giving me the chance to opt out, you’ve declared – as soon as I stepped in the door, and before I’ve looked around – that I owe you the currency of attention.


Try to construct a real-world analogue of that situation, and you quickly see how there can be no ethics-based defence of the practice.

You can always go elsewhere, of course. You can close the browser tab, or do another search. You’ve lost nothing, and you’re gone. Except that neither of those statements are true.

You have lost something, and not just time: you’ve lost a period of attention, and that’s the only actual currency you should be measuring with. You’re also still there; a ghost of yourself, lingering behind in a row of a database, ready for wider correlation – or reanimation upon your next visit.

Source: Negotiations | Matt Gemmell

+Commentary: This is a must read for anyone who wants to reasonably discuss the current debate of ad-blocking software, and its now quickly-approaching mainstream implications. A much longer critique of what he says here, all of which is endorsed whole-heartedly & full-throatily by us.

This is the approach you need to take in the age of Social Media. One that marketers, ad men, and Madison Avenue have not been having for years. Instead they run with “Content is King” and other hackneyed slogans to make everyone think the only thing that matters is that you put it out there, that ‘monetizing’ it is easy, if you just get the traffic, from doing A, B, C, D… and so on in their “strategic” opinion. There constant defensive strategies as paywalls seemingly plateau, micropayments are promised and yet never materialize, social selling aka bribing ‘influencers’ to endorse/sponsor your product,

Very few of even the industry leaders or thoughtful commentaries really address the elephant in the room. They’ll rhapsodize about Big Data while ignoring what that data can then show them. Because they are too busy interpreting it in disingenuous ways. What is lost in all the spiels about Funnels, Verticals, Algorithms and other marketing schemes is that for a long time now (at least the past two years full force) there has been a serious lack of philosophical leadership or innovation. The advent of mobile taking up such a large part of the traffic, apps for your phones and desktops creating these silos of content in a never-ending cascade,of free-falling content.

We have the web (in our opinion) reaching its late teens, possibly early adulthood, or the Web 2.0 version at least. While apps & mobile are definitely in their toddler phases still, then you have sub-genres like wearables, IoT, Quantified Self, etc…the unifying factor: none of them are fully mature.

Billions of dollars annually does not make a market mature. While Wall Street might not consider it an emerging market still, believe us it is. The analogy I love to use is that the Olson Twins were millionaires while still in elementary school. Now they are billionaires, and nothing like the adorable little tikes we’d grown up on. Their business model is also not the same, foundationally utterly different while living off all the annuities they generated and banked during that time.

In an ever-connected world, where machines will in the Internet-of-Things also join this tsunami of data, this undertow on our attention, Skynet almost seems merciful to the apocalypse we are rushing towards. How much will it impact our attention? Who will watch the watcher? Who will have time for ads? Native or otherwise. Mr Gemmell also just recently wrote about the strain to be productive and going socially dark. This attention drain and fatigue, it is very real. We are all competing for what we consider to be an infinite resource.

Sure people will always come along to join the connected web, but the targeted group that we need to support & back (both passively & actively) will actually shrink. Attention is not as marketers would have us believe abundant & low-value. It should be prized, and anyone with even an ounce of attention paid to the internet economy would realize this. Whether through thinking of it as gamification, and through pleasure & reward, or punish and discipline. Keep your UI/UX simple & intuitive, app-like but also make a good product! That is first things first.

Current ad schemes, paywalls, fremiums aren’t working, put the cart well in front of the horse. In maybe 10 clicks or more I’ll be at the buy stage. A landing page, “optimized” to what? Make me buy, or another lead-gen or opt-in scam.This week alone, I’ve signed up for 23 newsletters, had to unsubscribe from all but one. Had to send an email to the one “Sales Associate” who used my lead generation as an opportunity to follow up on her unread email. When I explained what I was in the middle of, she clearly understood that calling me was not only uninvited but not welcomed either

The follow up email to that intrusion, which I encouraged her to share with her CEO, said clearly. Don’t call me, I’ll call you. Your product was appalling from the looks of the promotional material I opted-in for. If they wanted to hire me to point out what they we’re doing wrong, please call me. Otherwise spend some time reflecting on whether you are building the best product possible, not following up on everyone who downloads your ebook. That was an appalling waste of my precious attention, but had to be done.

If I’ve saved just one more company from treating every contact point as a reason to barge in, light up my phone’s notifications, send me a text, check in by email

So it isn’t just your banner ads, your lead-gen strategies, or the Content you so desperately cling to as King. If you plaster Times Square with a flyer, full of vague promises on a product that may or may not be what people want. You will get engagement, but what you do with that engagement, the attention paid you is most important.

Don’t have a product or service people want, then listen to those that you want to buy your stuff tell you what you can do better. Listen to what their problems are with your app, your website, your pricing plans. Good products are sought out, in short supply like our attention. Don’t know who your clients are or where on the social web they are, then spend some time and do the research. Or hire us, we’ll gladly point you in the right direction.