The Attention Merchants
Attention merchant: an industrial-scale harvester of human attention. A firm whose business model is the mass capture of attention for resale to advertisers.
In nearly every moment of our waking lives, we face a barrage of advertising enticements, branding efforts, sponsored social media, commercials and other efforts to harvest our attention. Over the last century, few times or spaces have remained uncultivated by the ‘attention merchants’, contributing to the distracted, unfocused tenor of our times. Tim Wu argues that this is not simply the byproduct of recent inventions but the end result of more than a century’s growth and expansion in the industries that feed on human attention. From the pre-Madison Avenue birth of advertising to TV’s golden age to our present age of radically individualized choices, the business model of ‘attention merchants’ has always been the same. He describes the revolts that have risen against these relentless attempts to influence our consumption, from the remote control to FDA regulations to Apple’s ad-blocking OS. But he makes clear that attention merchants grow ever-new heads, and their means of harvesting our attention have given rise to the defining industries of our time, changing our nature – cognitive, social, and otherwise – in ways unimaginable even a generation ago.
Mail Men is the gripping, unofficial story of an institution that has become the self-proclaimed voice of middle England, and the adversary of liberals everywhere. Journalist Adrian Addison investigates the secret behind the Mail‘s extraordinary longevity and commercial success but also examines the controversies that have beset the paper – from its owner’s flirtation with fascism in the 1930s to its fractious relationship with liberals, celebrities and politicians today. Revelatory and captivating, this book also gets under the skin of Paul Dacre, the once awkward reporter who has become one of the most feared, hated, secretive, and respected editors in Britain. This is an essential read if you wish to understand modern Britain.