Thursday, September 27, 2007

Your Attention Span is the new currency

May I suggest that a new metric on the web be called
*Value of Attention Span Spent* or VASS. This metric would look at the value users derive out of spending time with web sites. This is different than *time spent*, *page views* or *market share* because it points to the value equation that a person gets from giving a web site (or any technology) their attention. Attention span is the new currency on the web and quite possibility the scarcest resource, in fact more scarce than money or eyeballs. Those companies that strive to keep the VASS metric weighted so that the visitor derives an equal or higher value in exchange for their attention/time will reap rewards. Conversely, if the value derived is perceived as less than the attention span given, then user dissatisfaction and quite possibility defection will begin.

We can look at some examples to see the differences in this metric. Traditional advertising would see a low VASS metric as people find less and less value in ads that are not targeted and relevant. Because of this, the attention span people allot to traditional ads is not fairly exchanged with the value received. In the television broadcast world, TIVO found a business in placing value back into the equation between the viewer and content by allowing viewers to optimize their *attention span spent* by skipping ads. On the web, you can look at sites like as delivering a high VASS with its users. You can run tons of examples with good sites but the metric is there in all cases. Even if the attention span spent is short to micro, the value exchange is constantly being calculated by each user who experiences the service or web site on a rolling and repeat basis.

While the examples of traditional advertising and support the point, the real opportunity lie in the grey areas – say for example social networking. Most social networks will tout rising statistics in areas such as time spent, page views, etc. However, inside most of these walled gardens, there is a real notion that users work to maintain their invitations and content – social network fatigue and invitation management have now surfaced as real issues. If you look at this through the VASS metric, there may be a decrease in VASS happening here as users find less value on some social networks for their time spent. Facebook, I think recognizes this, and as a result opened up. Opening up to outside developers has allowed Facebook to leverage outside resources to offer its users lots of cool applications. This gave Facebook users more variety to choose from and ultimately ways to increase the value exchange when they burn attention span on the site.

At Outbrain, we are keenly aware of this value exchange with people who rate content and thus we strive to offer a service that delivers a high VASS to our partners and their end users. We know that attention span is scarce and getting more so. Our mission is to leverage the power of ratings and mix it with some *secret sauce* on the backend to help people optimize the time they spend consuming blog posts and other article-ish type content on the web. We think that helping people optimize their attention span spent on content - coupled with a bit of serendipity along the way - will keep us on the positive side of the metric VASS (value of attention span spent) - with all our partners and fellow raters.

If you made it this far, please use the 5 stars below to rate your VASS (value of attention span spent) from reading this post.


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