May I Define Your Attention, Please?
Joe Marchese

Is Attention what Marketers really want?

Douglas Adams covered the subject of attention back in 1999…

“During this century (20th) we have for the first time been dominated by non-interactive forms of entertainment: cinema, radio, recorded music and television. Before they came along all entertainment was interactive: theatre, music, sport — the performers and audience were there together, and even a respectfully silent audience exerted a powerful shaping presence on the unfolding of whatever drama they were there for. We didn’t need a special word for interactivity in the same way that we don’t (yet) need a special word for people with only one head.

I expect that history will show ‘normal’ mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this. ‘Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn’t do anything? Didn’t everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?’

‘Yes, child, that’s why they all went mad. Before the Restoration.’

‘What was the Restoration again, please, miss?’

‘The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back.’

Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is. We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what we’re used to.”

The whole idea of attention comes from this broadcast mentality.

But think of it in terms of meetings.

If you have a talk, one person stands up and says stuff, shows slides etc. People sit and listen. Low touch. No real engagement. But safe — you don’t expose your lack of knowledge. By the next day they may often have forgotten pretty much everything that was said.

If you have a workshop, people have to engage. Share their own thoughts. Converse. Much higher touch. But higher risk too — you may make a fool of yourself and expose your false grasp of the situation.

Next is a course. Here you get homework, specifically designed to expose gaps in knowledge nad skill. Exercises to force your brain to think things through.

As marketers we are setting the bar too low. We are happy with an audience, when what we need is engagement. The higher the better.

To put it in sports terms we want fans, not just bums on seats in the stadium.

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