Learn. Write. Rinse. Repeat.

Attention Please! Going Beyond the Buzzword

. 2 min read

I was recently hired by Parse.ly - an analytics startup for publishers and content producers. And as a newcomer to the company and industry, I began noticing a strong emphasis placed on the word "attention". Some examples:

  • The headline of our latest product, Currents, is "What's Holding the Attention of Millions of People?".
  • The headline on our website reads "Audience attention is precious. We help you make it valuable."
  • Did I mention we also have a podcast called "The Center of Attention"?

I don't think that's a coincidence. And from my previous startup, I was familiar with the Basic Attention Token (BAT) project and the work being done on the new Brave Browser that aims to integrate the currency and create a new business model that combines paying attention with getting paid by attention.

What's the attention hype all about?

On modern publishing platforms such as Medium or Wordpress, "reading time" metrics are commonly generated for a post. The platform I use (Ghost) adds it right below the headline - 2 minutes to be exact. After popping open my analytics console to see how my last post fared (a grand total of 90 page views), I found myself drawn to the Avg. Time on Page metric above all else (3:30). The estimated read time and average page time matched...skimming is one thing but digesting is another.

As a developer, it's too easy to think of webpages as being "successful" if they're served correctly and you get a HTTP 200 Status Code in return. Packets in, packets out. But today that mindset changed, as what happens after the page is served is far more important. Page views only tells you the number of loads to a machine, but the Avg. Time on Page metric is one hell of a force multiplier. 90 page views seems small at first, but multiply that by the minutes and you get nearly 5 hours of unbroken concentration on the words.

That is seriously humbling.

Most people I know (including myself) would have a hard time focusing on a task for more than a few seconds before being distracted. Nearly 5 hours is one hell of a privilege as a small-time blogger. This is why attention is now the most sought after resource, because it's rare. If this sounds painfully obvious to you, at least I only wasted 2 min of your life, but thanks for sticking it out with me. My passion for writing and development has reached a new symbiosis. I have a feeling this will enhance the way I approach producing content and connecting with readers like you. My definition of success changed from "how many people saw my post?" to "was it meaningful enough for them to make it all the way through?" Quality is the differentiating factor between the two, and that's what I'll be chasing.