« 2008 - the year of peak advertising | Main | blog all dog-eared pages: sound art »


Good stuff, Russell. I like the analogies and the thoughts. I like thinking that people can dedicate limited amounts of attention during a day, or a week, or a lifetime, and that it makes sense for them to filter what's worth it and for them to be annoyed by what's not. It's a healthy equation.

Ooh "those animated perimeter boards at football matches" I really hate those.

Please, don't stop now. It's just getting more interesting.

Sounds awfully similar to the economic concept of "nuisance costs". In fact, there's also a legal concept of Nuisance:

"Nuisance is a common law tort.[…] Nuisance signifies that the right of quiet enjoyment is being disrupted to such a degree that a tort is being committed."

"right of quiet enjoyment", yes!

Maybe you should invent some sort of nuisance meter - like the Wattson but for things that disrupt our "right of quiet enjoyment". It could even run backwards if you yourself are being a nuisance.

Oh! better idea…
How about a browser plugin that, instead of blocking ads, sends the corresponding nuisance cost to a website running a global nuisance debt clock? Er, nevermind, I think I'd rather just have the ads blocked.

Brandsulin! And I is so joyful you is returning.

I send you warmness.

I've been measuring my online attention for a while with http://attentiontrust.org/ - although I'm a bit scared to look at the results. Still, like a Wattson, perhaps it will change my behaviour.

If you look at something again after several years, you understand it much more easily. Things that you, as a younger person, block out or discard because they require too much thought are likely to be much more digestible when you are older and smarter. At university I blocked out most of the philosophy part of my course because I just couldn't concentrate on it for long enough. Recently I read a '50 Great Philosophical Ideas' book and found it a lot easier to digest. So we should recycle more old ideas, tv programmes, films, toys etc and stop producing so much new stuff.

I frankly remain skeptical about this whole attention-deficit crisis. Since at least the first century rage of Juvenal, social critics have been lamenting the distracting corruptions of urban life, and, as far as I know, masses of people haven't collapsed in the street from overfilled brains, spam pouring out of their ears. More likely, we just made room by getting rid of other stuff. In the last century, an educated person had to learn Latin and Greek. Now, we don't. That freed up a lot of room for ads and the return of American Gladiator. Which is to say: people still seem to have plenty of attention to waste. In advertising, our job is often to get them to waste it on our clients.

But I do like the Matt Jones either/or paradigm you've built on here. I recently started a strategic project with a brand which makes money by packaging and filtering ads and sending them out to a list of subscribers. Lots of subscribers. That's right: they get paid to repackage and distribute ads already produced by their clients. The value-add is that they check the claims in the ads and only pick the ones that meet their standards. Think of a magazine that vetted the advertisers in their pages. Not advertorials (that annoying middle range) but ads as editorial. Ads subject to editorial scrutiny and standards. It's one way to speeding up consumption.

No Russell,

Please don't stop about this because it's a thought that demands and deserves attention.

My own pea-sized cerebrum came up with a similar idea with a boring name - a Consumer Attention Index.

The interesting (that's what I think) thingabout this boring name is to try and measure how much attention people pay to different forms of media, to non-media and try and ascertain what influences that attention.

Obviously, this will mean understanding in detail the biological process of how attention works.

Obviously, some educated assumptions would indicate that when our brain decides to mark something as "important" depending on "benefit", it'll allocate more and more time to it.

For example, love. When a guy falls head over heels for the beauty next door or vice-versa, doesn't everything we do revolve around that person?

We are so "attentive", that we are actually "distracted" from everything else. Therefore, attention towards one thing obviously means less concentration/attention towards something else.

In other words, lost attention = total attention span - attention allocated to x

I don't know how to calculate "total attention span" but if this does make sense, maybe this could help us produce more relevant, "attention-grabbing" advertising in the future.

The comments to this entry are closed.