The attention paradox

Online, where you can't buy attention as easily as you can with traditional advertising, most commercial media has the imperative of interestingness built in. The assignment is to make it viral, make it something people will watch or click on or even better, share.

This is hard for mass marketers, marketers who are used to making average stuff for average people and promoting heavily in media where they can buy guaranteed attention. And so, we see organizations buying likes and pageviews, pushing for popovers and popunders and all sorts of new ways to interrupt online.

Smart advertisers, though, are realizing that they have to make content that people decide is worth watching. Some have become very good indeed at making media that's so entertaining that we not only want to watch it, but spread it.

The challenge is that all those hoops you need to jump through to attract attention might be precisely the opposite of what you need to do to cause action, to get someone to change her mind or to connect.

A squadron of singing ferrets might make your video spread, but that approach isn't going to cause the action you seek.

And, alas, you have to do both.