Monetizing the Attention Economy

No sooner do I report a question — what happens when collaboration “community” members start charging for what they’ve been giving away for free? — than I find an answer, courtesy of The Economist:  startups that are doing just that.  AttentionTrust.  Gesture Bank (now blessed by AttentionTrust).  Agloco.  Boxbe. 

In various ways, each of these technologies enables the user to capture some of the value now “appropriated” by marketers and advertisers competing for their attention, and “free-riding” off of their attention data.  You create a tiered network for incoming information:  free access for those you trust; priced access for others.

This is all consensual and therefore presumptively unobjectionable.  Yet some folks used to worry that property was the wrong policy solution to privacy problems (and this is a form of privacy problem), and they must be shaking their heads.  Because creating these priced privacy networks (or “communities,” to use the marketing spin) brings some predictable legal challenges: 

What’s the wrong and what’s the remedy when someone tries to crash the community?  Are there exceptions and limitations and overriding interests, as there always are in any property system, that make it acceptable to break into the community?  Who is responsible for assuring that the “right” people rely on the access levels that they have paid for?  Is the community host liable for security breaches?  Under what standard?  Turn the security question around:  Who is responsible for assuring that users are, in fact, who they say they are — that these systems aren’t being gamed by attention-bots, as it were, posing as end-users or consumers?  And as a user, how do I protect myself against a new kind of “identity” “theft” — appropriation of my monetized identity not by an advertiser, but by another person (competitor? or bot?)? 

2 thoughts on “Monetizing the Attention Economy

  1. Mike-

    First, thanks for the mention on your blog.

    When we were first thinking about creating Boxbe, I looked at the barrage of unwanted email that I had in my inbox, not just the spam, but the email that I truly didn’t want and that was taking time out of my schedule to manage in some fashion. If I could only allow my friends and coworkers to email me, the amount of email that I would deal with in a day would decrease precipitously.

    With our system, only pre-approved senders, senders who take a test or who pay a fee can contact me. Ultimately, if my attention is very valuable, I can set the fee to be high and remove the captcha test altogether.

    To your other point, I agree that establishing identity is an important step in validating our service to marketers and it is something we are plan to do but at our early stage it is more important to create a valuable service for consumers to help them control their inbox.

    Here are a couple of posts that I’ve made about Boxbe’s value proposition:
    http://blog.boxbe.com/about-boxbe/boxbe-features-personal-access-price
    http://blog.boxbe.com/email/the-high-cost-of-attention

    Let me know if you have any questions about the service.

    Cheers,
    Randy Stewart
    Boxbe Product Manager
    randy@boxbe.com

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