21 August, 2012  |   13 Comments

Budgeting for the Currency of Attention.

Making II.

The more I think about it, about blog audiences and blog sponsors alike, it seems like the act of paying attention has become currency in its own right.

Duh Helen Jane, Chris Brogan wrote about it (I’d link to it but there’s some weird malware warning), there’s even a book about it, that Seth Godin gentleman writes all kinds of posts about it.

But from a more audience-based perspective, I started thinking blogs owed me something about the time most blogs evolved out of navel-gazing online journals. Probably around the time that it was changing from a fun hobby to a possible career for a lot of people.

And as I straddle both sides, I tell you that from a marketing perspective, we try to measure that attention so we can figure out how to translate that to sales. Your attention IS currency.

Five thousand Facebook Likes measure attention in a way that we couldn’t before with a billboard or a poster. Nearly 100,000 unique pageviews every month means a specific amount of attention leaked over onto the brand, means a possible increase in sales.

Sales off the backs of the readers!
Readers like you!

As that space, the jostling for my attention, got more crowded, I started to expect something in return for my time. (Or maybe that’s from being part of a blog audience.) I woke up to the fact that I was being used, that my attention was being taken advantage of so the author could make some money.

And that started feeling unfair.
So I started expecting something in return.

I think that’s why so many sites use the 5 ways to or 10 reasons for model for content. That kind of content provides some kind of value for the audience’s attention.

That’s a good thing and a bad thing.
I guess it’s just a thing.
A thing that made the content different.

Anyway, I expect some value for my attention.
I want inspiration.
I want to look better to my friends or feel better about myself.

And if I don’t get that return on my attention investment, I either grumble about it, go elsewhere, or continue to visit and feel unsatisfied.

But sometimes I continue to demand the same value for their attention I got before, as I bang on the van windows wondering why it’s not a rockin’.

“We don’t have an information shortage, we have an attention shortage.”
-Seth Godin

As a blog writer, I can tell you that publishers aren’t always clued into that fact.

Just making.

Audiences get used to a level of disclosure, storytelling, imagery.
Audiences want intimacy, creativity.
I know I sure do.

But publishers don’t always know that. And when their real life is too real, not engaging enough, not audience-based enough, they can lose the audience they may once have had such a connection with. Our expectations about what our attention is worth might not match up to what that blogger does.

But just like with any boyfriend that can’t figure out what I was thinking, I get annoyed with the authors I read, for not knowing what I want. But there’s no good mechanism, really for telling them about what I want.

A comment section? Good luck posting actionable feedback there.
Email? Meh.

There’s no real precedent for this exchange of ideas and wants and attentional currency.


And just like in real life, people move on, move ahead, move away.
But unlike in real life, there is this strange currency involved.

It’s almost like bloggers are the shop owners, with all the power.
I show up, 10 spot in hand to buy a box of wine.
The seller gives me a box of wine in exchange and all is well.

But I show up tomorrow, wanting more wine with my Hamilton, and the seller brings me a signed photo of himself.

I show up the next day, and he’s not there.
But he always takes my money.

No wonder I’m angry!
I showed up with my currency (attention) and the experience was inconsistent and unpredictable!

But just like with money, sometimes I want to spend it on a spatula, sometimes, I want to split it between some Cheezeits and a Diet Dr. Pepper. But that’s all me.

The seller doesn’t know this.
There’s no way for the seller to know this.
It’s on me to budget for the experience I want to have.

Sigh, just like with money, I need to become more discriminating and knowledgable about where I spend my attention.
(Damnit life! Why can’t I just gorge and fritter?!)

Am I in the mood for some creative inspiration (box of wine)? Or will reading about all of this free furniture just piss me off (giant autographed photo)?

It’s time I get a little pickier about the blogs I visit.

What are my bad mood blogs?
My bored but satisfied blogs?
My “get inspired” blogs?

How can planning ahead help me not be so careless with my attention?

13 thoughts on “Budgeting for the Currency of Attention.

  1. 1
    Ally Bean says:

    I agree with you. Over this past summer I’ve only posted once a week– and used the rest of my “blogging” time to really read (& review) who I follow. It’s been an eye-opening exercise in awareness.

    I follow a variety of people but now realize that many of the bloggers who I give the gift of my attention to, never respond to my sincere interest. Not good.

    Like you, I’ve come to the decision that if there is no relationship btwn us, then I think I’ll spend my attention budget elsewhere. Doubt if they’ll even notice, I’m gone. Sad to say.

    • 1.1
      Helen Jane says:

      I like this one post a week thing.

      I find it hard to believe every person has time for every person posting every day. Is it working for you?

      • Ally Bean says:

        I’m finding that by posting once a week I’m much more inclined to go & really read what other bloggers have to say. Not focusing on myself so much.

        But I’m also finding that I’m not sharing some of the good stuff that happens to me because I only post once a week. There is probably a happy medium, but I haven’t found it yet.

  2. 2
    Snoz says:

    The bummer is that the only blogs that seemed to have survived the shift to blog professionalization are either blogs of expertise or blogs about people’s personal lives. The weird far out blogs with long posts or complex ideas did not survive because they require too much attention and thought. Those were my favorites though.

  3. 3
    KeAnne says:

    This is interesting. I’ve been thinking recently about the relationship between blogger & reader. Readers almost feel a sense of ownership over the blogger and want to dictate content. But is that right? I like how you ended with the responsibility being on the reader to find the experience s/he wants to have.

  4. 4

    ‘A comment section? Good luck posting actionable feedback there’ so true, but I’ve also noticed that commenters aren’t always that interested in creating communities. They leave their comments and vanish, like the comment section is the scene of some minor crime they’d rather forget. I’m sure I’ve done it myself.

    I wouldn’t know how to fix it, but promise to always be selling wine (or cheezits or diet dr pepper) in my shop

    x Elena

  5. 5
    Angella says:

    Great post, HJ. I love it as both a blogger and a reader.

    From the reader perspective, I know that I’ve purged ones who aren’t worth my time, and I feel better for it.


  6. 6

    I love this, HJ! (No surprise there.) Following along with your thought process is always enlightening and uplifting.

  7. 7

    love this. needed this. i’ve spent more time offline and away from my blog since the birth of my second child in april. it’s felt fantastic. post when inspired. wheneverthehell that is.

  8. 8
    SB says:

    You are the Wise Woman in our village, HJ.

  9. 9
    msamye says:

    You are the second person in about a week (actually, they were probably posted at the same time, but Sunday night is my blog-catch-up time) that has done a post about ‘the nature of blogging has changed’.

    I am going to have to think on this a little longer, but it feels like we’ve lost our ‘low end’ – our livejournals. Even Blogger/blogspot also got to the place where you were expected to have a design, to be thoughtful, to be a blogger and not just a writer.

    I live in the world of the people who create the plumbing for the internet, the underlying structures, building the products that people use to create. (Probably why I don’t blog that much!)

  10. 10

    You know what’s interesting, and might surprise you, given what you do? I don’t really know how to find blogs anymore.

    I have attention to spend, but I read the same 5-6 sites as I did 10 years ago. I’d like to read blogs with the same priorities — to tell stories, be a little funny, and satisfy a creative urge — but it seems as though most have gone narrowly thematic or commercial. I’m not sure where to look because the big sites seem to have gobbled up all the little voices.

    And so, I end up reading the BabyCenter forums.

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