As illusionist Apollo Robbins once put it, “attention is like water. It flows. It's liquid. You create channels to divert it, and you hope that it flows the right way.”
In his book Paid Attention, Faris Yakob explores how the economics around attention are changing in the fragmented media ecosystem we live in. Driven by a philosophical approach but filled with interesting case studies, “Paid Attention” challenges some of the most wide-spread clichés in modern advertising.
Why you should read it
Understanding the dynamics around attention is key to everyone working in the media industry, and this essay has the virtue of explaining intricate concepts in a thought-provoking, yet entertaining way, while trying to answer the question: how do we get any attention in an infinite space?
Three key takeaways
- On the concept of viral: “Clients will ask for 'viral videos', to which one should reply: viral is a thing that happens, not a thing that is. [It] is a behaviour of the audience, not a property of the content. [Virality] is a measure of success. Having a viral strategy is akin to having an Oscar strategy. You can create better chances, but you cannot guarantee it.”
- On media fragmentation: “Digital channels may now deliver massive reach but the almost infinite nature of the web means that individual elements can lack the cultural impact of television and the associated media that reports on it. Fragmentation leads to the counter-intuitive fact that things can be incredibly popular on the internet and yet you and I may never hear about them.”
- On impressions and display ads: “To truly see, you must pay attention. This presents compelling challenges to the media unit of currency, known as impressions — they can only ever offer an 'opportunity to see', which by definition is also an 'opportunity to miss', if people are not paying attention.”
My favourite quote
“There are many ways to skin a content cat.”