The Attention Menu

attention_menu1Seth Godin has a way of describing the unseen so that we say “Oh yeah, now I get it”.

But not for me this time. In his post “Blogs, books and the irony of short”  he writes:

“Blogs have eliminated the reason for most business books to exist. If you can say it in three blog posts and reach more people, then waiting a year and putting in all that effort seems sort of pointless.”

and then summarizes with

“…This is irony (we say we want long and deep and rich but we also insist that it be condensed to a sentence) so it’s not clear what you should do about it as a marketer, other than to accept that it’s going on.”

As a marketer I don’t see it that way. There’s a menu of mediums out there seeking to gain readers’ attention. By better understanding readers, marketers can reach for that split second of free attention. Yes, summaries are needed, but CliffsNotes never replaced the full versions.

Here’s my take on the attention menu. As a reader, we run through an instantaneous thought process deciding what to read. It may look like this:

#1 What’s Our Purpose for Reading?

We first decide what we want to get out of reading at the moment, it’s our purpose for reading. And we read for different reasons at different times. We read to:

  • Get news
  • Learn ideas & practices
  • Relax & escape

#2 Purpose drives Choice of Content

After we’ve chosen to read, we then choose the content; topical, theoretical, educational, spiritual, fiction or non.

#3 Content drives Choice of Medium

Only after content has been chosen do we choose the medium. And it has to be available at the moment. But when faced with multiple choices  (book, blog, newspaper, etc.) content drives the choice of medium.

Here’s an example. I have a 35-minute ferry ride from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. Sometimes I’ll read a book, sometimes a newspaper, an ebook, case study or white paper, or even a blog online via wi-fi.

My choice is driven by what I want to get out of reading for the 35-minutes during the crossing. My choice isn’t “do I want to read a blog or a book”. It depends.

So whether the medium is long, short or summarized, it’s our purpose for reading at the moment that starts the chain of choice

Blogs are just another option to invest readers’ attention and time. As is Twitter. If you want to stay current with personal and social news, and spend very little time (140 characters worth) Twitter is for you. And many of the people I follow on Twitter use it to share what books they’re reading. Twitter is on the menu now.

Here’s the part I agree with Seth about – the Peter Principle would’ve been a better blog than a book.

What’s on your attention menu?
Chris Arlen
Image by Ben+Sam


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