I recently interviewed Ed Batista, the Executive Director of AttentionTrust, a non-profit in San Francisco, CA researching the implications of our online attention, and their work is worth a minute of your time. While still in a research and information-gathering phase, the future implications of this work will be huge.
What we're talking about
Think of the value of online attention in the same way that Nielsen Ratings affect TV: When a 'Nielsen Family' focuses more of it's attention on a particular television program that programming becomes more valuable because advertisers will pay more for it; the same holds true for the web.
The exciting thing about the web however, is that we can collect much more detailed information. What you clicked-on, how long you visited a website, what you purchased. The ability to gather countless hours of information on our preferences is a fantastic opportunity, Ed says, if we can protect it and share it voluntarily.
The opportunity for us, as consumers, is to gather and store our online data-- our attention-- in a private way, and then to identify places we feel safe sharing it. Take Amazon.com, for example. AttentionTrust envisions a world where Amazon might be certified "trustworthy" because they will not misuse our privacy data.
If we voluntarily share our attention data-- our web surfing behavior-- with a trusted enterprise like Amazon they can recommend products we might really enjoy. (And more importantly, NOT send us the "special offers" that we don't care about.)
Less spam, fewer ridiculous popup-ads, and more relevance.
More than just eCommerce
AttentionTrust is not just concerned about smart recommendations for books and CD's. They and the growing community of "Attention Theorists" realize that social networks are built around attention. Imagine being able to find, for example, fathers in San Francisco with kids between the ages of 8 and 11 who play baseball. (Do you know anyone? Let's go to the Giants game this weekend!)
By saving my attention data and making it available (anonymously, of course) within a social context we can use the web to find others that share our interests. Yes,the internet can help create real, personal connections. Imagine that.
Implications for your business
The near-term implication for your business is this: Personal relationships with your customers are critical, and the web is the easiest way to collect and save the information. Help clients to register online and tell you what they like and what they want changed. AttentionTrust reminds us that this type of personalization is what your customer will come to expect from you.
Thanks to Ed and AttentionTrust for sharing their time and, er, Attention with Leverage.