It took a great deal of failure and subsequent reflection to recognize this not-so-obvious idea.
It is very fashionable in the technology industry to build products which capitalize on people’s attention, but this is a scarce resource nowadays.
Attention-centric products take many forms. They may be in example, advertising brokerages, game studios, video studios, content hosting services, news websites, social networks or blogging platforms.
The trouble lies in that it is very hard to sustain long-term success when your customer base is consistently being fought for by competing businesses who also seek to gain their attention. These businesses are indeed well-funded and formidable contenders, such as Google, Facebook, Comcast, Disney and Microsoft.
In order to keep your customers’ collective attention from leaving, you must be prepared to keep providing new and attention-feeding content.
Ultimately that means continually spending money on never-ending recurring costs, such as subsidizing video producers, game creators, musicians or journalists to consistently create new material. If you host a social network, maybe this means ethically-questionable investment in manipulative interfaces which play on people’s susceptibility to drama.
If you are seeking to build attention-centric products, ask yourself: “Are we prepared to earn enough money to subsidize new content for the product’s lifetime?”.
If the answer is no, then perhaps don’t try to compete for people’s focus. Instead, consider how you can build products which seamlessly improve people’s lives in ways that don’t require much of their attention. ∎