The Attention Economy

Internet people often talk about the attention economy. For those that haven’t heard the term, or if you work for a newspaper, attention economy refers to the idea that attention is a scarce commodity, so websites compete for this attention. This attention can be costly to aquire, so websites usually don’t actively try and get less of it.

Trouble is, it seems no one told the newspapers:

Publishers around the world are collectively putting their foot down against search engines in a new global initiative to regain control of their content.

They are getting together in order to try and reduce the level of search traffic they receive:

The initiative, called Acap (Automated content access protocol), is intended to stop search engines aggregating content in breach of permission or copyright.

All this will achieve is to shift attention from them to their indexed competitors. The newspapers may “get it” eventually, then we’ll see a mad scramble in entirely the opposite direction, if it isn’t too late.

These types of initiatives could put pressure on the search engines in the short term, if done en masse. But there is simply too much money on the table for it to work long term. The attention has to go somewhere, and economies hate a vacuum.

New online newspapers will surely fill it. A few hundred new online “papers” have probably sprung up overnight.

UPDATE: Google’s official word on the subject. They’re not saying much, but I think it’s quite clear who is holding all the cards. “… if a newspaper does not want to be part of Google News we remove their content from our index –- all they have to do is ask”.

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