What Is the Attention Economy?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

The attention economy refers to the marketing and branding strategies companies use to capture your attention in an effort to maintain profitability.

[Featured Image] A group of employees discuss the effects of the attention economy on their business.

The attention economy is a way of describing the finite resource of engagement and the importance it plays in our personal lives, our culture, and our economy. Everyone has a limited amount of attention, and what attention you do have, is precious to you.

In today’s era, we’re constantly being bombarded with information. We can access a truly remarkable amount of information with just a few keystrokes. However, our time resources are finite—we call it “spending” time for a reason. This could be because, like money, we make decisions about how to use our time based on how much of it we have available.

The concept of consumer attention drives data analytics, influences marketing campaigns, and drives companies to employ even more aggressive tactics to grab your attention. Computer algorithms that can predict what you might like or not like help sell advertising to targeted companies and search for the tactic most likely to convince you to buy. If you have a product or service to sell, you’ll need to find a way to cut through the noise and speak to people who might benefit from what you have to offer, even as customers are increasingly weary of the demands on their attention.

Examples of the attention economy:

  • Social media: The business model of social media companies is to provide engaging content to keep users coming back and staying longer. In return, the companies sell targeted advertising, which effectively monetizes your personal data. The longer you stay engaged, the more information the company has to sell.

  • YouTube: As of June 2022, users upload more than 500 hours of video to YouTube every single minute [1]. Features like autoplay and ads you can’t skip encourage you to continue watching and pay attention to the platform.

  • Push notifications: When companies send push notifications to your phone, it’s an invitation for you to stop what you’re doing and click through to the app or website. By carefully timing notifications to moments when you are most likely to have a moment of attention to spare, companies are maximizing the value of their marketing efforts in the attention economy.

Related terms

Get started with UX design

If you’re ready to learn more about the attention economy, explore a career in user experience design. The Google UX Design Professional Certificate can help you learn skills in UX design, UX research, usability testing, and careers in UX design, such as UX designer. This seven-course series takes approximately six months to complete on Coursera.

Article sources

  1. Statista. “YouTube: Hours of Video Uploaded Every Minute 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/259477/hours-of-video-uploaded-to-youtube-every-minute/.” Accessed May 16, 2023.

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