The Attention Economy Cold War



Product and Digital Marketing Manager
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An analogy that I can’t seem to get out of my head after my most recent Call of Duty “Cold War” binge is how the digital “Attention Economy” is something of a cold war between social media platforms.

The attention economy refers to, of course, the concept that consumer attention is a currency that our favorite tech companies are competing to win over. It’s the core business model that drives many of the feed-based algorithms of our favorite social media sites. And when I say it’s a cold war between them, I mean they’re truly battling for attention supremacy.

To elaborate a little more:

The operative functionality and goal of many social media apps are to keep you on the site as long as possible by “feeding” you content they think you will enjoy. They do this as long as they can before you close the app and go grab the third bowl of Frosted Flakes.

And lingering in the shadows between each “military husband comes back home” or “pimple popping” video is a strategically-placed advertisement for you to unconsciously (or consciously if you are cursed with marketing knowledge) see.

In the eyes of the social overlords, the content you want to see is important to retain your attention but are pesky obstacles in the way of their core business model: delivering you tasty advertisements.

You see, the social media apps we know and love are here for one thing: gathering and leveraging our attention.

We don’t pay to see cringe TikTok videos.

We don’t pay to see our chain-smoking divorced aunts argue about flat-earth and Q-Anon on Facebook.

We get that stuff (unfortunately) for free.

“Nothing in life is free. Now pass me my cigarettes and f***k off,” — my father would preach…lovingly.

And the answer is not a secret anymore but our attention is the payment we provide.

But these platforms are essential for us, the end-users. They are our new Townsquare or city marketplaces connecting the world’s patrons and merchants.

We congregate, share experiences, argue, and make sense of the world through such mediums.

And behind the scenes, social platforms are competing for our attention.

As we galivant around the Townsquare retweeting or getting our hard scientific guidance from the YouTube comments section, the social media platforms are in a subtle war with each other to win our attention with the freshest batch of oysters, clams, and cockles.

The Mark Cuban Missle Crisis

This section actually has nothing to do with Mark Cuban, I just thought it was a cheeky usage of his name considering the theme of this piece.

But this article needs some type of takeaway or call-to-action beyond just the one cold war analogy so here it is.

The Attention Economy refers to the premise that our attention is currency.

As social media companies jokey to obtain it, their methods become naturally more intrusive as they seek more personalization.

Some are outraged by this but I say, “Fair enough”.

I would prefer a personalized experience over the way things used to be.

Remember the days of hunting knives and erectile dysfunction pills banner ads on every website? It was a confusing time as a young boy just trying to get my hands on an awesome new Razer scooter.

But enough about erectile dysfunction, the takeaway here is that the social media platforms we use provide us with a community platform in exchange for our attention, which they get to own and leverage as they see fit.

And thankfully, that means a more personalized experience from whoever happens to be renting our attention.

But what if we can shift the leverage? What if we turn individual creators into fully-operational attention engines?

This means you own the audience and their attention. You aren’t simply borrowing it as you do on all the existing social sites.

This essentially shifts the leverage from the social superpowers to the individual creators.

Owning Your Audience is like Stealing the Nuclear Codes

One potential way to end this social media cold war is owning the platform on which your users engage with you.

It’s a tough proposition because people are reluctant to leave their favorite social platforms.

Most of them want to consume a conveyer belt of diverse content centrally on their favorite platform.

But what about your super fans? Your most loyal and engaged users? Might they be willing to follow you wherever you may be publishing content?

An example of a loyal, borderline rabid, fanbase is Tim Dillon.

He’s of the most popular comedians, has a Patreon with 36,513 patrons, and ~$168,056/month. His Patreon subscribers (separated by two tiers) get 1 extra podcast episode a week, access to previous premium episodes, an exclusive message board/chat, and can submit topics to Tim.

Tim Dillon doesn’t technically own those fans or the platform but he established a direct-to-consumer revenue stream from his most loyal fans and Patreon gets their cut.

Tim Dillon is tapping into his fan base and generating revenue by selling premium content to them directly.

And they are more than willing to participate in this structure because they are participating in a direct transaction with Tim, minus the fees Patreon takes.

And that segment of your fanbase is where you will generate a majority of your revenue. The rabid and loyal fans.

A new approach to premium content

Some readers may know I work at Liquiditeam, and our core product, Unyfy, is a token-based fan engagement platform — which puts us in the same ecosystem as Patreon, Substack, Ghost, OnlyFans, etc.

But to be more precise, we are building something that is different.

Our product is more of a fan-centric Web3 white-label application. The next iteration of creator-enablement.

Using the white-label platform, hosts can launch their own application with their brand elements, and execute all the typical written, audio, and video content publishing that populates via vertical feed.

Where we differ is in the interaction between the hosts, users, and sponsors, which revolve around your (the host) dedicated fan token, NFTs, and micro-transactions.

The tokens fuel the platform and are used to engage, boost, and participate in votings or ideations. Additionally, token/NFT holders can be given access to both online content or communities as well as offline events and perks.

This is where we are different. Creators, artists, athletes, brands, etc. can all create their own applications using Unyfy. And in that way, we are a “faceless platform.”

Ben Thompson, one of our favorite thinkers here at Liquiditeam, can be attributed for that term and he encapsulated what we are trying to build perfectly in one of his recent pieces, “Unity, Weta, and Faceless Platforms.”

Here is a little excerpt from the article:

…in technology’s middle era the most important platforms will be faceless, empowering developers and artists and creators of all types to create completely new experiences on top of the best technology in the world, created and maintained and improved on by companies that aren’t competing with them, but partnering to achieve the scale necessary to accelerate the future.

– Ben

So at the expense of peddling or over-selling what we are offering, head over to our site and check out a more detailed description of the platform below:

Unyfy. Your Fans. Unite Your Followers. | Liquiditeam. Tokenizing Fandom

Borussia Dortmund’s live app where they engage with international fans.

Dennis Schroder of the Boston Celtics also launched his app and even released his own NFTs.

Closing Thoughts

If you want to see a few interesting use cases, head over to this other post I wrote about what cool content ideas you can utilize.

So to summarize, an owned platform is not only a way to segment them from your general following, it is a fantastic way to create a direct communication stream and sell directly to them.

If you enjoyed this article, maybe give it a couple of thumbs up, throw me a follow and let’s connect on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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