Your attention is the most valuable resource in the world.
It determines your destiny, your accomplishments, even the life you live. And companies spend billions and billions of dollars every day to capture it.
That’s right. Your attention is bought and sold every single day by people you’ve never met.
It is bought by large, multinational conglomerates. It is bought by the local neighborhood pizza joint down the street. And every sized business in-between.
Your attention is the most valuable resource in the world to both you and anybody, anywhere, trying to sell you anything.
Advertising is, essentially, the buying of your attention.
Marketers will pay buckets of cash for ad space on websites, airwaves, billboards, pages, bus stops, stadium scoreboards… almost anywhere your eyes will be focused, marketers will seek to place an ad or a logo.
Why? Simple, they want your attention, even if for a brief second.
Their pursuit of our attention is to be expected I suppose. If someone has something to sell us, and a dollar to be made from it, they will work hard to get that product in front of us.
Not only will they send emails and junk mail, put up billboards and place radio ads, they’ll even inject their products in the shows we watch and the video games we play. Literally buying ads anywhere and everywhere they can.
If they can collect our attention, they can sell us something.
But for every buyer, there must be a seller. And there must be a product to be purchased.
The buyer is the marketer.
The product is you.
And the seller? The seller is often times the person or entity you trust the most—selling your attention to the higher bidder.
Scrolling Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or Tik-tok? That sponsored post that just showed up in your feed? That’s your favorite social media site selling access to you for a dollar—and not just access, but your personal data as well.
Just run a Google search and the first four items on the Results page say “Ad”? That’s not Google returning the four best, most reliable answers to your question. That’s Google selling you, your attention, and your intention, to whoever sent them the most money to show up on your screen.
That website you like to visit that is filled with ads and pop-up videos that automatically play every time you click on it? You’re the one being marketed.
That free app you love to play on your phone with the ads across the top or in-between levels? Yup, they’re selling you.
Of course, this extends beyond the digital world. In fact, the digital world is pretty new to the game.
That radio talk show you love so much? They are selling your attention every time they cut to a commercial break or product announcement.
That sports league you love so much? They sold you, 30-seconds at a time, to the highest bidder too (probably a beer or fast food company).
That celebrity posting pictures of her favorite make-up or blender? Selling you.
That newspaper you love… that magazine you like… that harmless television show with singers in masks… even that government run mass transit system you ride each day. All of them, they sold your attention for a profit.
Every time you see an ad, just remember, you are the commodity being bought and sold. There is a buyer… there is a seller… and there is a product changing hands—you.
The most valuable resource you own, your attention, being sold for pennies.
Hi, I agree a lot with what you are saying and have also learnt a bit about advertising in the past year or so which has been an eye-opener to say the least. However, I struggle because I’m a musician and I do want to share my music to encourage others and share the hope I’ve found in Jesus, however, I hate the idea of buying someones attention or distracting people from what really matters. As you post regularly, what advice would you give someone who wants to share their content but in a way that is ethical and respectful of others?
P.S I really like your content and have been realising life is a lot more freeing when you live with less. However, I’m also realising how distracted I get from the things I value.
Max Arnold says
Great post, Joshua.
Your posts always are so fluffy and creamy, about caring more, loving more, and it’s sweet. It’s really good to read from someone who truly means such beautiful ideas. But sometimes, a little bit of crude reality and some fear really make the deal! This post is one of the most engaging and motivating I’ve read at your blog…
I’ve seen people here in the comments trying to look for a solution to the problem… sadly, there is still little, or none. (Or maybe, they want us to think ads are eminent and impossible to remove)
Like you said, using an adblock extention is great, and some of them would even block youtube ads. But as to talk radio ads, or analog TV ads, there’s really not much we can do… I hope that changes soon.
Elisa Trivanovich says
Yes, I know the problem, but is there a realistic solution? When digital communication is so prevalent in everyday life. I take multiple breaks from the phone. But then fall into the FB rabbit hole to “see” friends I haven’t seen in nearly a year. I also find it interesting that an ad popped up for your free book. How do we minimize our digital presence?
Adblocks are a big help here. I dont see any ads on facebook or pretty much any website now. Youtube however, is still a problem. So much so that its fast becoming unwatchable due to the very intrusive and unskippable ads. I refuse to pay for a service i was previously getting for free just to stop seeing ads. Instead, i have now removed the app.
In the past few years out of necessity – I had to down size my life – during that time period I removed most technology devices (cell phones, computers, games, t.v., etc.) and kept the radio alarm clock (;o). I started noticing the World around me so much more, esp. without a cell phone! Thank you for this article – most people acted like I was “insane” for not owning or wanting a cell phone. I totally enjoy this article – i am living proof that we “wake up” when not so reliant on technology – YES it is nice to have and use but not as the current controlling addiction on Earth as it is today. 000
JULIET MARY WOOD says
I knew all this but I really need to be reminded regularly and the way you phrase it really helps me, so once again many thanks Joshua. I battle against ads, it’s not easy for me to ignore them. On Instagram I have a folder named Promoted Stuff and when I see something I like I put it in that collection. Mostly I forget about it. Lucky for me I don’t like Facebook and Tik tok is a noise clocks make. I absolutely get Minimalism because of you but I have a hard time putting in the work!
We are now living in the attention economy. Great read Joshua.
Maria L Pinto says
Although our local libraries are open for curbside pickup I do miss being able to go in. They have books & magazines for sale that people donate. The first thing I do when I get home is tear our as many adds in the magazines that are two sided. Then I enjoy it! Oh yes & they only cost .25 cents.
I thought I was the only one who tears out those pesky ads, the drug companies are the worst!
That’s another reason I love this blog! Try reading another blog- it’s almost impossible between all the ads crammed in the small space.
Makes my eyes and head hurt.
Thanks Joshua for keeping this blog reader friendly and not making money off selling ads! :)
Vanesssa King says
I agree. I love this blog because there are no ads, lots of white space and clear text. It’s not stressful on the eyes or the mind.
One of the best articles I’ve read this year. This one is staying in my Inbox to remind myself how valuable my attention really is and to choose wisely where I spend it.
Maria L Pinto says
Sorry Joshua I got your name wrong. This subject is so important to talk about.