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The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads

Год выпуска: 2016
Автор: Tim Wu

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments

From Tim Wu, author of the award-winning The Master Switch and who coined the phrase "net neutrality"a revelatory look at the rise of "attention harvesting," and its transformative effect on our society and our selves.

Attention merchant: an industrial-scale harvester of human attention. A firm whose business model is the mass capture of attention for resale to advertisers.

In nearly every moment of our waking lives, we face a barrage of advertising enticements, branding efforts, sponsored social media, commercials and other efforts to harvest our attention. Over the last century, few times or spaces have remained uncultivated by the "attention merchants," contributing to the distracted, unfocused tenor of our times. Tim Wu argues that this is not simply the byproduct of recent inventions but the end result of more than a century's growth and expansion in the industries that feed on human attention. From the pre-Madison Avenue birth of advertising to TV's golden age to our present age of radically individualized choices, the business model of "attention merchants" has always been the same. He describes the revolts that have risen against these relentless attempts to influence our consumption, from the remote control to FDA regulations to Apple's ad-blocking OS. But he makes clear that attention merchants grow ever-new heads, and their means of harvesting our attention have given rise to the defining industries of our time, changing our naturecognitive, social, and otherwisein ways unimaginable even a generation ago.


Business is always trying to get our attentionand perhaps our soulsaccording to this lively if sometimes overwrought history of advertiser sponsored media. Columbia law professor and net neutrality advocate Wu (The Master Switch) takes readers from the 19th century dawn of New Yorks penny press when media moguls first realized that the attention of readers was their product and advertisers their customers through the propaganda of wartime Britain and Nazi Germany the advent of televisions mesmeric power and ultimately the current onslaught of garish pop ups and click bait junk journalism fighting to hijack our eyeballs on the Internet. Wus critique of the Kardashianized spiritual malaise of our society of the spectacleWe are at risk of being not merely informed but manipulated and even deceived by ads... of living lives that are less fully our own than we imagine he groansfeels old hat; the real problem seems to be simply how to prune back ads that have grown too invasive and annoying. Fortunately his history is usually vigorous and amusing filled with details of colorful hucksterism and cunning attention grabbing ploys along with revealing insights into the behavioral quirks they instill in us. The result is an engrossing study of what we hate about commercial media. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."


"The question of how to get people to care about something important to you is central to religion, government, commerce, and the arts. For more than a century, America has experimented with buying and selling this attention, and Wus history of that experiment is nothing less than a history of the human condition and its discontents." Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing


"Television entranced the masses. Digital media, more insidiously, mesmerizes each of us individually. In this revelatory book, Tim Wu tells the story of how advertisers and programmers came to seize control of our eyes and minds. The Attention Merchants deserves everyones attention." Nicholas Carr, author of Utopia Is Creepy and The Shallows


"I couldnt put this fascinating book down. Gripping from page one with its insight, vivid writing, and panoramic sweep, The Attention Merchants is also a book of urgent importance, revealing how our preeminent industries work to fleece our consciousness rather than help us cultivate it." Amy Chua, Yale law professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and The Triple Package


"Tim Wu has written a profoundly important book on a problem that doesnt get enoughwell, attention. Attention itself has become the currency of the information age, and, as Wu meticulously and eloquently demonstrates, we allow it to be bought and sold at our peril." James Gleick, author of Time Travel: A History

About the Author

Tim Wu is an author, policy advocate and professor at Columbia University, currently serving as Senior Advisor to the United States Federal Trade Commission. In 2006, he was recognized as one of fifty leaders in science and technology by Scientific American magazine, and in the following year, 01238 magazine listed him as one of Harvards one hundred most influential graduates. He writes for Slate, where he won the Lowell Thomas gold medal for travel journalism, and he has contributed to The New Yorker, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Forbes.

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