The search for attention
From high school students to mega-corporate business behemoths, the search for attention is a constant. Granted, a high school student may be seeking attention for some sort of social validation, but when it comes to business, this can make all the difference in becoming a real success versus just another forgotten brand left in the dust. According to Orlando Sentinel, the average humans’ attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to a measly 8 seconds in 2021. In contrast, a goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds, according to the same source. So, if attention is such an important resource, and it has only become harder and harder to obtain, how are businesses and society adapting to stay in the public eye?
First off, it is critical to mention that the media channels we pay attention to are vastly different from they once were. To be fair, humans are creatures of habit. So, what may be true for someone born in the 1960s, isn’t necessarily true for a kid born in the 2000s. With that said, we can still see a clear trend of where our attention is moving to. For Gen Z and Millennials during the pandemic, for example, the pattern is quite clear. Podcasts and music streaming are replacing radio, online TV/streaming is replacing broadcast TV, more video games, more online videos, and less physical press, according to Frank W. Baker.
In general, one can say that more and more people are spending time on what is happening online through various media channels. And this has led to big business for the ones who have positioned themselves in favor of this major shift. In the video game industry, the value is astounding. You can see this in the recent example coming from Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) acquisition of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI) for a whopping $68.7 billion. But it doesn’t stop there. For example, music streaming service Spotify (NYSE: SPOT) has a market cap of 41.73 Billion at the time of writing, with 172 million premium subscribers worldwide in the second quarter of 2021. And, you can’t have a conversation about online media attention without mentioning the giant success of social media platforms like Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), Snapchat (NYSE: SNAP), Instagram (NASDAQ: FB), TikTok and YouTube (NASDAQ: GOOGL), of course.
Still, this doesn’t answer the question of how people on these platforms are getting the attention in the first place. Going back to my earlier example of a high school student looking for attention, one of the ways they can do this is by sharing something deeply personal online for everyone to see. What they are doing, how they are feeling, something shocking, something impressive, something flashy and materialistic, something dark, or something explicit, these are all different ways to get people to start talking about you and your life. Well, your response to this can simply be “that person is probably just craving attention and that doesn’t pay the bills anyway, so what’s the point.” For many people, you’re probably right, however, one can argue that this is all an influencer really does. They share their lives or at least a part of it online for everyone to see, and they can get paid by various brands or companies they start themselves because they are the ones who have the attention. Ideally, this is a win-win scenario for both people and businesses in this new digital age. For people, they can focus on what they are interested in or what they like doing and share it online in order to get attention with virtually no barriers to entry, while companies can find people who are in their niche who have the attention from the demographics they are looking to market to.
There is much more to say on this topic, and will probably be revisited in the future. But for now, to keep a long story short: attention pays.