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What is attention?
You may not know this, but we’re in the middle of a gold rush.
Years ago, many a prospector packed a couple barrels of pinto beans, 2,000 pounds of ammunition, and a spare wheel yoke into a covered wagon and headed out west. Make it to California without dying of dysentery and you will be rewarded with all the gold you can fit in a copper pan was the dream. There’s a new race for treasure, fortunately with the only risks being carpal tunnel syndrome and drinking too much Mountain Dew while sitting in front of your computer. The treasure I’m talking about? It’s attention.
Online, it’s a resource more valuable than gold.
Blogs are the result of innovation in technology and a fundamental shift on how we view said technology. It took a lot of development in these here-internet-parts to go from the Turing Machine to the point where anyone can sign up for a Tumblr account and write posts about their cat’s sex life for all of the world to read (please don’t do this). The challenge for bloggers is that, while technology has evolved, we haven’t and–more importantly—neither has our audience. We still only have 24 hours a day, and can still only process information at the same speed as we could in the dark ages before the modern internet. Some call these dark years, the early 1990s. Until Apple puts an implant in our brain that helps us process information faster, or someone invents a drug that gives us 8 hours of sleep in a pill, we’re still stuck with a very finite set of time we can spend accessing a nearly infinite source of information. Part of the reason I like 20SB (and you do too) is because it offers a lot of opportunities to cultivate attention. Join groups where you comment on other blogs, directing traffic back to your own: attention. Participate in discussions? Attention. Write a guest blog post on the official 20SB blog? Buckets of attention.
Attention is incredibly valuable. Don’t believe me? Why did the Facebook IPO come out at 16 billion dollars? It’s because Facebook owns a significant share of the attention market. There are rumors they are going to develop their own web browser. You know why? So you spend more time paying attention to things on Facebook. The internet is a knowledge economy, and the most valuable commodity in it is attention.
On 20SB, the most popular discussion topic is the one where you can promote your most recent post. It shouldn’t be surprising—it’s a great opportunity to gain some ever-so-valuable attention. I’m going to say what we are all thinking. We are, in fact, here to seek attention. Before you charge my Gmail account with virtual torches and pitchforks about how I indirectly questioned your pure motives for blogging, understand that in this context I don’t see seeking attention as bad. It’s a good thing. A GREAT thing. If you are like me, you should believe that you are writing things that are important, interesting, and that other people need to read. If that’s the formula, you can’t get to (B) from (C) without including the (A)ttention.
Here’s where the work starts. The formula for success may be simple, but the formula for attention isn’t. Communications professionals make a lot of money trying to generate that elusive (A). It’s difficult. And communications professionals are always competing against the next shiny thing that pops up to grab your attention. Like all of you I’m trying to make connections with communities like 20SB to cultivate it myself. Hopefully I have better framed the problem for you, so it helps you with your own blogs to whatever end you want to take them. Attention is gold.
Now that you know that social communities and discussion foster attention, why don’t you get a little bit right now and discuss in the comments your strategies for catching it?
About the author: Jones works full time as a communications professional. Outside of work, he spends his time online writing cranky rants about internet culture, media, geekdom, the intersection of advertising and technology, and how hypercommercialism is making society more weird by the day. He tries to keep it thought provoking and enlightening but can’t help slipping a fart joke or swearing from time to time. His goal is to write until all the ideas in his brain have come out. It might take him a while. When he’s not working or writing, he’s either traveling, drinking coffee until he blacks out on a caffeine-spree, or training for an upcoming triathlon. Find Jones: Blog | Twitter | 20sb