Imagining Mus: An Attention-Action Currency (Part 6)

Pay (for) Attention

On the issue of paying for attention, Michael H. Goldhaber had this to say in his 1997 talk:

Contrary to what you are sometimes urged to believe, money cannot reliably buy attention. Suppose it did work that way. Then you could have been paid to sit here and listen closely even if I were to read you something as boring as the phone book or an unabridged dictionary. Presumably it wouldn’t even matter if I kept repeating the same few syllables over and over. If money could reliably buy attention, all I would have to do is pay you the required amount and you would keep listening carefully through all that, not falling asleep en masse, nor allowing your minds to wander. In truth, even if you had been paid a huge sum, this would be most difficult, and if you did it, it would be a testament more to your own deep sense of principle than to a general condition in which another roomful of similar people could be expected to do equally well.

Someone who wants your attention just can’t rely on paying you money to get it, but has to do more, has to be interesting, that is must offer you illusory attention, in just about the same amounts as they would if you had instead been paying money to listen to them — which by the way is closer to the case here. Money flows to attention, and much less well does attention flow to money.

And here is Brice Berdah in UX Collective: “Attention is a resource that can lead us to action. Once we have it, we can also pass it to someone else, and put her/him under the spotlight. To understand how attention works in our modern world, considering its relationship with money is vital. We tend to think that money can buy attention yet we fail to recognize that this feat cannot be achieved consistently. Money cannot reliably buy attention…Different forms of incentives are tested to have highly engaged users that frequent check back their feeds, the biggest one being gamification. It is the import of gaming reward mechanisms on non-game mediums, such as apps…By adding points, achievements, unique rewards, power-ups and random reward schedule, apps and websites developers can ease the adoption of their service and increase engagement.”

It was in this context that I had discussed the idea of microns and loyalty. Here is what I had written previously: “Adding elements of loyalty and gamification can make microns much more rewarding. Our attention has a lot of competition; if someone is willing to pay us for it, they have the potential to stand out. By disintermediating the media and ad platforms, brands can build a direct hotline to their customers, with the rewards working as magnets for visibility, engagement, actions and eventually, transactions.”

As I thought about the problem, I decided to narrow it down. Rather than target the entire universe of consumers, what if brands could just focus on their existing customers and reward the less active ones for their attention? The prize for entrepreneurs to get it right is a large chunk of the global advertising pie. For brands, it is an optimisation of their huge marketing budgets. And for consumers, their ‘delete’ mindset could be converted to a ‘delight’ mindset when it comes to dealing with the inflow of messages they get. How can a win-win platform be created for all? It was time to bring multiple strands – microns, loyalty, micronbox – together into a larger idea of “Mus” (pronounced as ‘mews’; and derived from the µ symbol that I have previously suggested as an identifier for microns). Mus can become the currency for attention and action.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.