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The Attention Economy- How we are becoming the product

Since there is a surplus of information, more information flowing through our society than any of us could ever hope to process or understand, the new bottleneck on our economy is attention. We now live in an attention-based economy.

Mark Manson

Information is increasingly limitless and convenient to access, but our time and attention is not. The attention economy views human attention as a scarcity.

Made with Giphy.

As the competition for our attention grows online, it is becoming harder for consumers to avoid clickbait content and content farms. However, more and more businesses are realising that the key to reaching consumers is through creating tailored content for their specific audiences.

An example of tailoring content can be seen in TikTok, who’s complex algorithm generates a curated page of content for each user. (Read more about TikTok’s ‘For You Page’ algorithm here.)

TikTok is a free social media app where users can create and share video content. Over the last couple years it become increasingly popular, it’s never ending supply of 15-60 second videos make it easier for the user to consume a wide selection of content in a short amount of time. It’s almost addictive. But how does TikTok profit from our attention?

By using the app TikTok is provided information about your location, search history, internet address, the device your using as well as a range of other personal data that it uses to create unique algorithms for each user.

By collecting all of this data TikTok is then able to more specifically target users through advertisements and encourage in-app purchases.

It’s important to remember that in the fight for our attention, free content isn’t always ‘free’. The general rule is…

if it’s free you are the product.



Kane, L (2019) ‘The Attention Economy’, Nielsen Norman Group, <;


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