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Supply-Demand Curves for Attention

The basic ideas behind the Attention Economy are simple. Such an economy facilitates a marketplace where consumers agree to receives services in exchange for their attention.

Alex Iskold, ReadWriteWeb, The Attention Economy: An Overview

The attention economy. It’s a natural evolution of our ever-growing thirst for information, and the easier means to create it. It’s everywhere, and it’s not going anywhere. The democratization of content production, the endless array of choices for consumption.

In Alex’s post, he listed four attention services, as they relate to e-commerce: alerts, news, search, shopping.  In the world of information, I focus on three use cases for the consumption of information:

  1. Search = you have a specific need now
  2. Serendipity = you happen across useful information
  3. Notifications = you’re tracking specific areas of interest

I’ve previously talked about these three use cases. In a post over on the Connectbeam blog, I wrote a longer post about the supply demand curves for content in the Attention Economy. What are the different ways to increase share of mind for workers’ contributions, in the context of those three consumption use cases.

The chart below is from that post. It charts the content demand curves for search, serendipity and notifications.

micro-economies-of-attention-3-demand-curves-for-content

Following the blue dotted line…

  • For a given quantity of user generated content, people are willing to invest more attention on Search than on Notifications or Serendipity
  • For a given “price” of attention, people will consume more content via Search than for Notifications or Serendipity

Search has always been a primary use case. Google leveraged the power of that attention to dominate online ads.

Serendipity is relatively new entry in the world of consumption. Putting content in front of someone, content that they had not expressed any prior interest in. A lot of the e-commerce recommendation systems are built on this premise, such as Amazon.com’s recommendations. And companies like Aggregate Knowledge put related content in front of readers of media websites.

Notifications are content you have expressed a prior interest in, but don’t have an acute, immediate need for like you do with Search. I use the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed for this purpose.

The demand curves above have two important qualities that differentiate them:

  • Where they fall in relation to each other on the X and Y axes
  • Their curves

As you can see with how I’ve drawn them, Search and Notifications are still the best way to command someone’s attention. Search = relevance + need. Notifications = relevance.

Serendipity commands less attention, but it can have the property of not requiring opt-in by a user. Which means you can put a lot of content in front of users, and some percentage of it will be useful. The risk is that a site overdoes it, and dumps too much Serendipitous-type content in front of users. That’s a good way to drive them away because they have to put too much attention on what they’re seeing. Hence the Serendipity curve. If you demand too much attention, you will greatly reduce the amount of content consumed. Aggregate Knowledge typically puts a limited number of recommendations in front of readers.

On the Connectbeam blog post, I connect these subjects to employee adoption of social software. Check it out if that’s an area of interest for you.

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Would You Apply a ‘Dislike’ to Your Co-Workers’ Content?

On Digg, you can apply the “bury” rating to stories. On Amazon.com, you can apply a single star to rate something negatively.

Would you ever do that to the work of your colleagues?

I’m not talking the annual HR exercise of 360 reviews. I’m talking Enterprise 2.0 apps, which incorporate the features we see out in Web 2.0. The ability of people to rate the content they see.

A few social media sites have taken a binary approach to ratings: (1) positive rating, or (2) abstain:

While some others are incorporating the notion of negative ratings:

Out on the Web, where you’re interacting on platforms with thousands of anonymous or unknown people, negative ratings make sense and help bring some order to the scrum of content and products.

See Louis Gray’s post for a good perspective on this whole rating thing in social media.

Inside companies, things are a little different. There’s a vetting of other Enterprise 2.0 users, in the form of the hiring and annual review process. This automatically raises the average quality of contributions.

And there’s this….Enterprise 2.0 apps are used by people you know and work with. People you’re going to see in meetings, on projects and who have common connections. A negative rating to someone’s Yammer or wiki entry or social bookmark is a big deal. You’re essentially saying:

“Dude, this is bad. I mean really bad. So bad that I had to ‘dis you and let the rest of the organization know how bad it is.”

Personally, I’d have a hard time with this. In the most egregious cases, I’d apply the negative rating. But I’d strongly prefer to “work it out” in the comments to the original content.

My concern is that a negative rating turns into a basis for internal feuding and chills open discussion about ideas, information and observations. But in a large organization with a heavy flow of content, maybe the negative rating is the most efficient way to handle the value if information.

Perhaps I’m in the minority here. How about you? Would you give a thumbs down to your co-workers’ content via Enterprise 2.0 apps?

*****

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Investment as Signal: Bezos Funding Twitter Is a Green Light

Twitter announced today that it picked up more funding, which I first heard through Marshall Kirkpatrick’s tweet. He has a nice post up on ReadWriteWeb.

Investments provide three benefits:

  1. Cash
  2. Signal the broader market about the company’s prospects
  3. The investor provides advice, ideas and introductions

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, is one of the investors. His investment hits all three benefits listed above.

Let’s look at what Bezos has done while at Amazon.com:

  • Established the preeminent brand for online retail
  • Built a platform for small merchants to sell on
  • Integrated user ratings as a key element of the sales process
  • Pioneered affiliate marketing
  • Developed Amazon’s highly successful recommendation engine (35% of sales)
  • Created a vibrant cloud services offering
  • Gambled on Kindle, which is showing some promise despite skepticism

Clearly, the guy has a good eye for things that can be successful.

Now he’s put his own money into Twitter.

What are the two biggest things Twitter needs?

  1. Reliable, scalable architecture
  2. Monetization strategy

Amazon.com processes how many transactions per hour? I imagine the number is huge. Amazon Web Services are all about scalability, with the need to process millions of transactions reliably. If you can’t scalability master Google or its executives to invest in you, I’d say having the founder of Amazon.com qualifies as the next best choice.

Monetization is the other question for Twitter. Amazon has had success in its affiliate marketing (relevance drives the clicks, distributed advertising program), its recommendations (35% of sales, driven by relevance) and in its fee-based Amazon Web Services. Ads, incremental revenue, web services fees. You think in that mix there is a solid revenue model for Twitter? I’d bet on it.

I really like this investment by Bezos in Twitter. Good for Twitter, and I hope it portends success for them in the months ahead.

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See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Investment+as+Signal%3A+Bezos+Funding+Twitter+Is+a+Green+Light%22&public=1

Facebook Beacon Is Dead. Long Live Amazon Grapevine.

Amazon has just come out with two new Facebook apps, as reported by Erick Schonfeld on TechCrunch. One is Amazon Giver, which lets friends share wish lists. The other is Amazon Grapevine, which lets you broadcast your activities on Amazon back to the Facebook newsfeed.

Pardon me…but isn’t that the basis of Facebook Beacon? Well, sort of. There are a few differences.

Amazon made this completely opt-in, which differs from the opt-out philosophy of Beacon. Also, product purchases are not included in Grapevine, but they were an important part of Beacon.

Personally, Beacon doesn’t bother me that much. I did not experience the early versions of Beacon with the too-fast notice that popped up on e-tailers’ sites. No accidentally revealing an engagement ring purchase. But there are times a purchase says something about you.

In fact, I think the idea of sharing your purchases with your friends has a lot of interesting potential. I can think of three different reasons people would share purchase information with friends and check out what their friends have purchased:

  1. Self-expression
  2. Product discovery
  3. Friends’ reviews

I’ve mapped those reasons to several different retail sectors.

  • Apparel = self-expression
  • Computer Hardware/Software = friends’ reviews
  • Consumer Electronics = friends’ reviews, self-expression
  • Home & Garden = self-expression, friends’ reviews
  • Sporting Goods = self-expression, friends’ reviews
  • Baby Products = product discovery, friends’ reviews

For instance, I think broadcasting your Apparel purchases is more a form of self-expression. People’s fashion tastes are an extension of themselves. Participation in some sort of Beacon-like program for Consumer Electronics, on the other hand, would be a chance to provide reviews to friends and read the reviews of your friends. And Baby Products would have a lot of discovery and reviews. See what your friends have purchased for their infants. Anyone who is a first-time parent knows the challenges of figuring out what to buy.

But, Beacon is still controversial, and Amazon doesn’t go as far as broadcasting purchases. So for now, we broadcast our ratings and reviews. This is pretty good. I can learn a lot from that.

The only problem is, the opportunities to share this way are still quite limited. Not too many e-tailers are doing this yet. However, Amazon has a rich history of driving innovation in e-tail. It was the early leader in e-tail. It was among the first to set up an affiliate program (Amazon Associates). It pioneered product recommendations.

So now it’s experimenting with the sharing of product-related information on social networks. Probably won’t be long before other e-tailers get on board.