What is the Attention Economy and What Does it Mean for Nonprofits?

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This month's Net2ThinkTank question is, "How can nonprofits and NGOs succeed in the online attention economy?"

A few folks have contacted me to say, "I'd like to participate, but I don't really understand what the attention economy is," so, here is a little more info:

Wikipedia defines attention economics as,

"an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity, and applies economic theory to solve various information management problems."

In his ReadWriteWeb post, Attention Economy: All You Need to Know, Richard MacManus writes:

"A key point is that The Attention Economy is about the consumer having choice - they get to choose where their attention is 'spent'. Another key ingredient in the attention game is relevancy. As long as the consumer sees relevant content, he/she is going to stick around - and that creates more opportunities to sell."

In the case of nonprofits, organizations are trying to keep supporters and potentional supporters' attention in order to "sell" the opportunity to make a difference in the world through the channels and services their organization provides (information, donation, membership, volunteering, advocacy, media creation etc.).

In his post, Why Words Matter in the Attention Economy, Steve Cebalt of the Nonprofit PR blog writes:

"In today's Attention Economy, where every nonprofit message must compete for attention with every other message that your audience sees or hears, does it matter much how effectively you communicate? Does it matter whether you make yourself clear with donors, funders, board members, and the people who use your services? I'm sure universally the answer would be 'Yes.'

In the Attention Economy, people want a return on their investment when they invest attention in something you have written. They want something interesting, or useful, or stimulating, or inspirational."

As more nonprofits, businesses and individuals create blogs, podcasts, rss news feeds, wikis, social networks, YouTube accounts, Twitter feeds, fundraising widgets, mashups, etc. what do you think nonprofits need to do to attract and maintain people's attention online?

Share your ideas in a blog post on your own blog, or here, on the NetSquared Community Blog. Here's how to post on the NetSquared Blog.

Please tag your post, "net2thinktank" and send a link to it to me at bbravo@techsoup.org by Friday, April 11th 5 PM PT.

Flickr Photo Credit: Captivating Eyes by Ibrahim Lujaz.