Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Trust and Attention in Opposition

This is a very thoughtful and interesting post by Seth Godin, who is a well-known marketing guru with a wonderful blog.

The two scarce elements of our economy are trust and attention.

Trust is scarce because it's not a simple instinct and it's incredibly fragile, disappearing often in the face of greed, shortcuts or ignorance.

And attention is scarce because it doesn't scale. We can't do more than one thing at a time, and the number of organizations and ideas that are competing for our attention grows daily.

People sometimes get more attention by doing a dance, he says, but violate trust in the process.

..those that pay the price to grab some momentary attention almost always do it at the cost of trust.

Part of it, no doubt, is that some of the main ways to grab attention are sensationalism, gossip, exaggeration, sex, glamor, or celebrity, which have never had wider respect. Linsey Lohan gets plenty of attention, but not much trust.

Much attention is tabloid. Much more is cat videos.

Another issue is attention span. It needs time and effort to build trust, which is usually a shared experience and co-evolution. The Internet, on the other hand, often gravitates towards tl;dr and 140-character tweets. The firehose of information hitting everyone means people take shorter and shorter gulps. Attention can be gained and lost faster than ever before.

The kicker is that the Internet also has a much quicker and more ruthless set of mechanisms to expose lack of trust than ever before as well, from Yelp and Tripadvisor with their customer reviews to the lack of gatekeepers who can direct and tamp down conversations.

We also have an inbuilt skepticism toward things that seem done purely for attention. Perceptions of motive is a major underlying force.