Are we all merchants of attention?

We can define attention merchants as all those entities that gain from exploiting and controlling the attention of the masses.
The most obvious attention merchants in our days are the social networks that are the ones that take up the most of our time during our day.

This buying and selling of our attention began globally in the nineteenth century starting with the first street posters, newspapers through radio, television and finally the Internet.
Historically when the balance between promotion and utility is broken and the demand for attention becomes too much, it triggers an automatic mechanism of revolt in the audience.

It happened with posters, with newspapers, with radio, TV, and now with the Internet where people are fed up with banners and influencers. The merchants then continuously move to the latest technology where they can start over, they are already ready for the Web3 and the metaverse, the flags have already been planted.

The exploitation of the audience’s attention in exchange for entertainment or interesting materials always takes place with its initial consent, but then it always goes further by breaking the balance and starting to take in full force what was previously allowed only in part.

It may have happened to you that you subscribed to a newsletter because you were interested in a topic but after a while you unsubscribed. That’s exactly it, at first you were getting interesting information, then the frequency of mailings increased and the information was less and less and eventually it all turned into just purchase requests.

You almost feel betrayed.

But are we ourselves who operate in the field of communication merchants of attention?

We certainly demand attention but in a fairer way because we communicate in a more ethical way. You can sell your product or service but if you don’t break the bond of usefulness by always giving useful information to your audience, they will continue to follow you because they will recognize in you an honesty of purpose that is always appreciated and, over distance, rewarded.

For example, there are plenty of people on YouTube who have been giving very honest and useful information to viewers for years without asking for anything in return. Then when these youtubers start selling something they usually have a lot of buyers. It’s a clear and straightforward relationship:

  • first I provide value without asking for anything in return
  • subsequently I start selling something
  • simultaneously I always continue to provide value even to those who do not buy my product

By doing so I will not lose loyalty and I will have a good percentage of sales.

Said in this way it sounds like the easiest thing in the world, in fact it is but for so many the word “honesty” is replaced by “cunning,” here quotation marks are a must because it is actually stupidity.

Those who start in reverse, pretending to give value in order to then sell something, sooner or later get caught out by failing in their intent.

So to work the attention/sale exchange must be fair, not trying to steal attention without returning something of equal value. This can be applied to any product but definitely works best for services.