Spend your attention wisely

Michael H. Goldhaber is not the first to argue that it isn’t really accurate to talk about an information economy:

Yet, ours is not truly an information economy. By definition, economics is the study of how a society uses its scarce resources. And information is not scarce - especially on the Net, where it is not only abundant, but overflowing. […] Attention is different. It really is scarce, and the total amount per capita is strictly limited.

I’m not convinced that the analogy is truly useful, but I must say that I have been enjoying thinking about attention as a limited resource: “I have so much stuff I want to spend my attention on today, I simply cannot afford watching that TV series everyone is talking about!”.

It seems reasonable to assume that everyone has roughly the same amount of attention to spend each day, but we can still discuss its value. Seth Godin:

Attention is a bit like real estate, in that they’re not making any more of it. Unlike real estate, though, it keeps going up in value.

The value of attention is also more complex in that it varies a lot depending on who’s attention it is, when you get it, and perhaps most importantly: why you get it.