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Paying Attention To Pragmatic Needs

John Hagel on paying attention points to discussion in the blogosphere, precipitated by comments by Esther Dyson in a debate with Vint Cerf in the WSJ Online. Attention scarcity is continuing to grow and will be of concern to all marketers. As Michael argues, the foundation of the attention economy is the exchange that results from giving and receiving attention.

John points to comments from Andrew Keen who amplified on Esther’s comments:

Dyson says that the Internet in 2016 will come to reflect our hunger for attention. It will be electronic proof of our existence. To misquote Descartes, “I can be googled, therefore I am.” The future of media, therefore, for Dyson, is partly a Darwinian struggle to rank higher than others, and partly an existential struggle to prove one’s own identity. This vision is not dissimilar to my own theory of digital narcissism.

And, Scott Karp suggests that this holds the key to a transformation of media economics, radically undermining traditional revenue sources for the creation of content, especially advertising.

For marketers to succeed, we now need to be clear on not just what motivates a buyer to buy – the compelling need – but also what is behind the desire to receive attention. I don’t want to just receive attention because I have primal human needs – what Nick gets at. There are times when I need attention because I have a compelling reason to buy.

How do marketers identify that point of pragmatic need? Monitoring blogs and conversations is one way. But it is a reaction. The simple answer is by building relationships online. By enabling conversations.

Let me illustrate this point. I have a very pragmatic need. Four new tires. The Continental tires on my Audi – even with diligence, have a habit of exploding on road trips. I want the three good ones left off my car. The Audi dealership doesn’t want to have a conversation about this. It’s Continental, or, Michelin. I don’t particularly trust them – a cornerstone of any conversation.

So where can I have a conversation online – how can I post to a site my desire to have a conversation on a topic and attract businesses willing to share a point of view? In the attention economy it strikes me that there will be room for attention brokers to meet pragmatic needs. Just as there are all kinds of tools willing to satisfy our emotional needs with stats.

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