The Paradox of Plenty and the Scarcity of Attention

 Joseph S. Nye writes in his excellent book Soft Power:

Technological advances have led to a dramatic reduction in the cost of processing and transmitting information. The result is an explosion of information, one that has produced a “paradox of plenty“. Plenty of information leads to scarcity -of attention. When people are overhelmed with the volume of information confronting them, they have difficulty discerning what to focus on. Attention rather than information becomes the scarce resource, and those who can distinguish valuable information from background clutter gain power. Editors and cue givers become more in demand, and this is a source of power for those who can tell us where to focus our attention

Herbert Alexander Simon (Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics) talked about this paradox of plenty on his article Information 101: It’s not what you know, it’s how you know it  (This paper was originally presented at the Carnegie Bosch Institute’s “International Conference High Performance Global Corporations,” April 21, 1995, in Boca Raton, Florida, called  “Knowledge and the time to attend to It”.)

Attention is key and advertising is one of the business models based on capturing attention and monetizing it. Kevin Kelly (Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He helped launch Wired in 1993) writes in his blog, Where Attention Flows, Money Follows. This concept is further elaborated by Gerd Leonhard on his presentation The End of Control and the Future of Content (the slide set can be downloaded from slideshare).

Freemium is mentioned as well.

Leave a Reply