The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads
A description of the people who rent out your focus.
Information from the publisher
From Tim Wu, author of the award-winning The Master Switch (a New Yorker and Fortune Book of the Year) and who coined the term “net neutrality” – a revelatory, ambitious and urgent account of how the capture and re-sale of human attention became the defining industry of our time.
Ours is often called an information economy, but at a moment when access to information is virtually unlimited, our attention has become the ultimate commodity. In nearly every moment of our waking lives, we face a barrage of efforts to harvest our attention.
This condition is not simply the byproduct of recent technological innovations but the result of more than a century’s growth and expansion in the industries that feed on human attention. Wu’s narrative begins in the nineteenth century, when Benjamin Day discovered he could get rich selling newspapers for a penny. Since then, every new medium - from radio to television to Internet companies such as Google and Facebook - has attained commercial viability and immense riches by turning itself into an advertising platform. Since the early days, the basic business model of “attention merchants” has never changed: free diversion in exchange for a moment of your time, sold in turn to the highest-bidding advertiser. Full of lively, unexpected storytelling and piercing insight, The Attention Merchants lays bare the true nature of a ubiquitous reality we can no longer afford to accept at face value.
“Vigorous, entertaining. … Wu describes how the rise of electronic media established human attention as perhaps the world’s most valuable commodity.” - The Boston Globe
“The Attention Merchants is a book of our time, touching on an emerging strain of anxiety about the information age. … A bracing intellectual tour de force.” - The San Francisco Chronicle
“Comprehensive and conscientious, readers are bound to stumble on ideas and episodes of media history that they knew little about. [Wu] writes with elegance and clarity, giving readers the pleasing sensation of walking into a stupendously well-organized closet.” - The New York Times