Paying Attention to Attention

    March 28, 2006

As the number of inputs we allow into our lives increases, there’s a huge demand for tools that help us manage our attention.

We’re starting to see some early seeds sprouting.

Chris Saad writes in to tell me about Touchstone (depicted above). The app, which they’re calling an attention management engine, streams RSS feeds to your desktop using a set of rules as a filter that allows you to customize what’s important when. The new beta of NetNewswire also sorts feeds by attention. TiVO does the same for TV.

These tools are going to get more sophisticated over time. With this there are challenges ahead for marketers. Will ads be included in the attention metadata that’s collected? If they are then will attention tools know which ads we want to see when? This is where eyetracking comes in. In the future I would love to see eyetracking tools hit all our desktops. Then, on an opt-in basis, we can have the computer truly get a sense for what we care about, including ads. Consumers might balk though at all of the above over privacy concerns.

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Steve Rubel is a PR strategist with nearly 16 years of public relations, marketing, journalism and communications experience. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President with Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm.

He authors the Micro Persuasion weblog, which tracks how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the public relations practice.