Monetizing Attention

Jim Bursch commented on my latest Attention post, suggesting his own My Mindshare 10-point Declaration is aligned with the AttentionTrust. Unfortunately, it looks like he is getting slammed at Craigslist and not getting traction in the blogoverse (from reading his blog).

Jim, I think you might be running into backlash from the PayPerPost click-fraud-like problem (the link is to Doc Searls’ discussion of same).

I know, you slam it in your own blog as well, but it really does come across as something very similar. At the very top of things, you push for value in terms of paying users to be a part of your co-op:

A pay-per-click bulletin board that
pays you for your mindshare.

And then on the “Mind Control” bulletin board:

That sure sounds a lot like PayPerPost.

It seems like you might be sincere, but the immediate appeal to $$ for clickstream behavior sounds a lot like PayPerPost’s approach to monetizing Attention. Which is to say, a big turn off.

You might also kill the music on your home page. That happens to be one of the top ten online advertising techniques that people hate.

The tricky thing is, in some ways, you are aligned with AttentionTrust.

Now, I do owe Steve Gillmor a call to find out more about how GestureBank is going to work and at a minimum it anonymizes user behavior, which is a huge advance over Jim’s approach. But somewhere along the line, isn’t it also going to generate value for users in some concrete way? Maybe not direct payments, but extracting value from our clickstream has a lot of parallels with PayPerPost and MyMindshare.

The non-profit status of the AttentionTrust and the focus on user rights and privacy protection make their efforts much more seemly, but I’m looking forward to getting more details from Steve.

If, at the end of the day, Attention is to be monetized directly, how do we distinguish the PayPerPost’s from more legitimate efforts?

(after further thought, maybe it is just a matter of transparency & disclosure…)

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10 Responses to Monetizing Attention

  1. VC Dan says:

    I wouldn’t compare click fraud with PPP. In fact, PPP provides no payment for people to click on anything — removing that incentive to deceive that permeates AdSense and a host of other click-based platforms.

    PPP does, however, empower bloggers to blog about what they choose, how they choose, for the audience they know best. Getting paid to do something you love is a liberating thing indeed…

  2. Joe says:

    VC Dan,

    That’s a good point, and I’ll edit the original to say click-fraud-like PPP.

    The problem is that both make money by being deceptive and in an Attention economy that can’t be tolerated.

    Some click-fraud networks make money by setting up systems where users get cash for clicking on links they really only care about because they are getting paid.

    PPP makes money by setting up a system where users get cash for posting about things they really only care about because their are getting paid.

    Sure, blog posts are more work than clicking. But the parallels are pretty obvious. And both are expressions of attention.

    The point about both is that when Attention is falsified to make money, everyone loses. The more the system enables, supports, encourages, allows, or tolerates deceptive uses of Attention for personal or corporate gain, the more the /entire/ infrastructure is undermined.

  3. VC Dan says:


    There are multiple assumptions in your comment that make me wonder if you’re trying to shed light or darkness on the topic. For example, you say “PPP makes money by setting up a system where users get cash for posting about things they really only care about because their [sic] are getting paid.” Saying that is about as accurate as saying”eBay makes money by setting up a system where sellers get cash for selling things they really only sell because they’re junk.” eBay’s market system, like all market systems, has its abusers but that doesn’t make it de facto deceptive. To the contrary, with a good rating system, that marketplace has brought value to buyers, sellers and the online community at large.

    We researched the platform for 3+ months before putting significant money where our mouth was. We got to know the team, the posties, the system and the incentive structures to encourage quality and discourage abuse. I had some of the same assumptions you did before doing my research and trying the platform from both sides. You sound very committed to a blogosphere of trusted opinions, so I’d encourage you to try PayPerPost before leading people astray — some might argue that getting it wrong for free is worse than getting it right for a fee.

    Even if you don’t do the deep research, thanks for the exposure and feedback so far…keep it coming.

  4. Joe says:

    VC Dan,

    If you didn’t pay them, would they still post?

    Hard to say, isn’t it? Chances are good they wouldn’t post about that particular Opportunity, in any case. Which means the real reason they are posting is for the money, not because they care about the topic of their post.

    As I understand it, PPP bloggers aren’t required to disclose, which is a time honored ethical standard in journalism. That means either

    a) PPP bloggers are journalists acting unethically
    b) PPP bloggers are hucksters masquerading as journalistic bloggers

    Both options are pretty bad.

    I suggest changing your policy to require disclosure.

  5. VC Dan says:


    I’ve found that Posties post more often, about more things after joining PayPerPost. To discourage abuse, PPP requires at least as many organic posts as sponsored ones. Interestingly, frequent posting is great advice for anyone trying to build an audience and the ideas found thru PPP make it easier for mainstream bloggers who don’t get free product, exclusive press releases and the like. With that in mind, PPP’s job then becomes attracting so many opportunities that people find things that interest them beyond covering their expenses. Again, this is very similar to eBay’s job when they were in the beanie-baby phase: bring more sellers to the platform so buyers find things they like.

    I agree that disclosure is a time honored ethical standard in journalism. The reality I think you miss is that the vast majority of bloggers, and the millions that will embrace blogging going forward, don’t consider themselves journalists. They operate their blog in the spirit of blogging roots, as a personal web log, not a newspaper. That said, there are plenty of Posties aspiring to operate as journalists, and they disclose as you recommend.

    I think that just highlights the fact that bloggers own their blogs and as much as you/others might like to dictate how they operate, they are spending the time, exerting the effort, and paying the hosting fees to operate their blog in keeping with their goals and audience.

    I appreciate your suggestion that we dictate how they engage their audiences. I also appreciate that we don’t own these sites or bloggers. The key is striking the right balance as a marketplace between those competing interests. My comments before were focused on errors in your reporting, but your opinions are always welcome and helpful as we try to strike the right balance that unleashes more discipline, voices, opinions, perspectives and knowledge across the blogosphere.

  6. Jim Bursch says:

    Thanks Joe!! I really do appreciate the feedback!

    Couple of points:

    1. Google’s Adsense program cuts the publisher in on the “clickstream” revenue that is generated at their site. MyMindshare cuts the consumer in on the “clickstream” revenue that they create. No significant difference; in fact, I would argue that MyMindshare is more honest because it is paying the people who create the real value that is their mindshare. (I really don’t like to characterise mindshare as a “clickstream.” Clickstream implies mindlessness; MyMindshare seeks to be mindful.)

    2. Then there is the issue of people clicking for the money. Yes — the money is the starting point, but not the end point. At MyMindshare, the consumer is compensated for the 20 seconds of mindshare that they trade for the money. If nothing else happens, a brand impression will have been made, and that is of some value to the advertiser.

    The key to unlocking the full value of mindshare for the consumer and the advertiser is efficiency — to deliver ads, and the attendant money, to the consumers for whom the ad is most relevant, and therefore most likely to lead to a transaction.

    And this leads to the most important feature of MyMindshare — BOTH the consumer’s and the advertiser’s interests are aligned. The consumer wants to see relevant ads, and the advertiser wants to deliver only relevant ads. But here’s the kicker — relevant ads are worth more in real dollars than irrelevant ads. Not only will relevant ads be more relevant to the consumer, they will also pay more — a virtuous cycle.

    At MyMindshare, it is the profile that enables advertisers to target their ads to the consumers who are most likely to find the ad relavent. And the consumers have an incentive to fill out their profile because it will give them more relevant and higher paying ads.

    Now, an incentive to fill out the profile is also an incentive to lie on that profile (some profiles are more valuable than others). That is why you can’t change your profile willy nilly and why you are limited in the number of interests you can select. There will be some people who try to manipulate the system, but the vast majority will play by the rules, simply because we make it difficult to do otherwise.

    You can probably tell I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and I’ve put those thoughts into the code. Mindshare has real monetary value and consumers are entitled to realize that value. At MyMindshare, I am creating a mechanism to do just that.

  7. Jim Bursch says:

    “It seems like you might be sincere, but the immediate appeal to $$ for clickstream behavior sounds a lot like PayPerPost’s approach to monetizing Attention. Which is to say, a big turn off.”

    Yes, that is the biggest hurdle I have to overcome.

    And “clickstream behavior” is a huge turn off to me too. It’s not about “driving traffic” or “grabbing eyeballs.” It’s about enabling consumers and advertisers to come into a relationship fairly and honestly without trickery.

    Ad-supported media, regardless of the intentions of everyone involved, ultimately relies on the bait and switch as a business model. And that is fundamentally corrupt and corrupting.

    At MyMindshare, I’m trying to do advertising differently, and in the process put dollars in the hands of consumers that they can use to purchase and support honest media.

  8. Jim Bursch says:

    Oh, and one more thing. I agree that music on the homepage is a bad practice.

    In this case, the music attends the animated short that tells the story of MyMindshare (the music makes more sense when just viewing the short, as in here:

    Perhaps I should remove the animation, and simply link to it.

  9. Jim Bursch says:

    Hi Joe

    It may just be semantics, but your point was a good one. I’ve changed the verb from “you earn” to “advertisers bid”.

    It’s actually more true the the spirit and intent of MyMindshare — a marketplace for mindshare.

    Next I’m going to take the flash animation (with its attending music) off the homepage and instead provide a link to view it.

    Thanks for the feedback Joe!!! It definitely helps.

    By the way, I’d like to offer you a $100 credit on MyMindshare. You can use it to promote your blog, your business, your favorite charity — anything you like.

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