The Attention Merchants: From the Daily Newspaper to Social Media, How Our Time and Attention is Harvested and Sold
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.
In this revelatory book, Tim Wu tells the story of how advertisers and programmers came to seize control of our eyes and minds. The Attention Merchants deserves everyone's attention. -- Nicholas Carr, author of THE SHALLOWS I couldn't put this fascinating book down. Gripping from page one with its insight, vivid writing, and panoramic sweep, [it] is also a book of urgent importance, revealing how our preeminent industries work to fleece our consciousness rather than help us cultivate it. -- Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER A profoundly important book... Attention itself has become the currency of the information age, and, as Wu meticulously and eloquently demonstrates, we allow it to be bought and sold at our peril. -- James Gleick, author of TIME TRAVEL: A HISTORY The question of how to get people to care about something important to you is central to religion, government, commerce, and the arts. For more than a century, America has experimented with buying and selling this attention, and Wu's history of that experiment is nothing less than a history of the human condition and its discontents. -- Cory Doctorow, BOING BOING 'Magisterial... Wu [will] be heard and rightly so. The future of the media, specifically the internet, lies at the heart of our liberal democratic destinies. A battle is now being fought between those who aspire to maintain net freedom and those who call for regulation or seek commercial control. Wu's sharp analysis and eye for a good story will impress any thoughtful legislator. If new media laws are to be made, this book will be a key document.' Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times 'Wu is the rare writer capable of exhuming history and also interpreting current affairs. In this profound and important book, he excels at both.' New Scientist 'An ambitious history of the communications industries in the 20th century... these are great stories, and Wu tells them expertly.' Guardian -- Praise for THE MASTER SWITCH
Tim Wu is an author, policy advocate, and professor at Columbia University. He has been variously named as one of the leaders in science and technology, one of Harvard's 100 most influential graduates and America's 100 Most Influential Lawyers, and in 2014 and 2015 he was named to the "Politico 50." He formerly wrote for Slate, winning the Lowell Thomas Gold medal for Travel Journalism, and is a contributing writer for The New Yorker. In 2015, he was appointed to the Executive Staff of the Office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.