July 20, 2009

The Economics of Attention: What is the trend now?

It was Google Trends who gave a new meaning to the word 'trend' on the Internet. It was about what the world was searching. It was Google's effort to assist the advertisers to make their decision during the keyword auctions for Adwords. Google sold contextual keywords to advertisers to run Adword Campaigns, one of the most innovative and successful advertising models ever. They have Search Based Keyword Tool that helps advertisers decide keywords for their campaign, based on actual search queries. And I think Google Trends added value to this by showing advertisers which keywords were searched the most. Perhaps, the price of the keywords went up depending on the trend,helping Google boost the Adword Sales.

'Trend' is now the Twitter Word. It is more about 'trending' now than about 'trend'. If 'Trend' was about what the world searched, 'trending' is about what the world is buzzing. Google Trend was about what the world searched during a day and was usually consolidated by the end of the day. But 'Trending' is about seconds! We see that trends change every second.

In 2007, Richard MacManus wrote about "10 Future Web Trends". The fifth possible trend he mentioned was "Attention Economy". There he mentioned a write-up by Alex Iskold, on Attention Economy. In the write-up Alex explored a proposition by Herbert Simon:
Herbert Simon was perhaps the first person to articulate the concept of attention economics when he wrote:"...in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it" (Simon 1971, p. 40-41).
Alex said that 'key ingredient in the attention game is relevancy' and what is relevant this second may not be relevant in the next as the attention span of people is really narrowing down. People 'skim' more than they 'read'. And he also explained how we are soon going to live in an 'Attention Market Place", where the customer gets to choose what he is going to look at and buy. I think the time has arrived. And Twitter Trending and What the Trend? are signs of our time. You must have already noticed that what trends on Twitter during the first half of the day does not trend during the second half.

So far it was about plain and direct 'Contextual Marketing.' Advertisements were placed based on what people searched and what people read. I think contextual marketing has come of age. As predicted by Alex, we are moving from the idea of static 'web sites' to the idea of ever changing and people participatory 'web services'. Marketing also needs to focus on what people say as they focus on what people search and read. It is more about word-of-mouth marketing, or what they call viral marketing. In other words, marketing needs to focus on where people's attention is. I think it is here a Web Service like What the Trend? or Fad.ly becomes relevant.

What the Trend? looks at what people are looking at and talking about, mostly on Twitter. It also gives you an idea about latest photos and latest news on a trending topic. One good thing about 'What the Trend?' is the fact that it gives us an idea about when the trend trended for the first time and when it trended for the last time. It also gives a space for people to say why the trend is trending. But at present it gives you only a limited picture when it comes to what is the trend elsewhere.

If you have the 'whole World Wide Web'in mind, I think fad.ly is more evolved when it comes to conceptualizing 'trending'. It claims that it was launched to become a central location for real time fads on web. Now, that is a little more comforting than 'What the trend?'s' idea of trending. But the discomforting part of the story is that when it comes to trending, even fad.ly focuses on what happens on twitter than elsewhere. Sure it has provided spaces to pull links to news, photographs and videos relevant to the topic. However, they rarely have a link to give us as it is mostly about what is trending on Twitter and not necessarily about what is trending on the World Wide Web.

I think viral marketing wiz kids can use these tools to design their campaigns 'Attention Economy' focused. I also hope someone big enough to take "What the Trend?" to the next level takes notice of Matt Mayer or Fad.ly. I would love to see what is 'trending' every second on the whole 'World Wide Web' and not just Twitter.! Till that happens, I am afraid, Google Trend is the only reliable tool marketing people are going to have to decide what drives their campaigns.

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