In a previous incarnation of tge attention wave, my, focus was mainly on the most basic forms of attention seeking in the online world: YouTube, social media, etc. I also provided some analysis of current events through the lens of ‘attention seeking’ whether by professional outlets (media, celebs, sporting events, terrorists) or amateurs.
In retrospect, I was hitching my vehicle to various attention waves as they developed, merely perpetuating my own attention scam.
At the time , that scam comprised of experimenting with the idea of riding attention waves (hence the name of the blog ) via current events – both major and minor -to show how by the practice of aligning oneself with news using a salient platform, one could become something of a star in real life pulling from the virtual that is the internet.
From Summer to late Fall 2012, I had a good time a turning myself into a blogger – indeed , an author – via a free-of-charge platform ,WordPress, as I publicly explored a concept I was fascinated with for he benefit of any others who might also be interested in it.
Looking back, however, one glaring weakness I’d felt about my blog was my lack of being able to show how , exactly, normal folks with YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, or Tumblr accounts would actually begin to profit in the literal currency-I- can-use-in- real-life-to-pay-for-stuff sort of way.
How would Joe and Jane Blow realistically turn attention into currency?
I was making zero direct income from any of my YT channels, and I knew better than to suggest to anyone that a YouTube channel was going to be the way for most future attention seekers to make money on the internet by monetizing their own original YT content. Though there are numerous examples of individuals whose hard work sees them reaping literal financial gain from the YouTube fame – comedian ,KSI, for instance has gone from being an off-kilter gamer into a literal mini-celebrity over the past five years . It’ s hard to make the case that real money profits could be seen through such attention alone; most folks would never gain enough consistent viewership and/or subscriptions .
In order to use attention to literally profit from one’s online ‘attention’ endeavors, one still must sell things.
At the time I was writing – mid-2012 to the end of 2012, I was doing so on a macbook , which is essentially a portable desktop computer. I’d lug it around New York , plop down in cafes and libraries throughout city, then write blog posts, edit videos, and upload all of it to channels I knew would be seen and appreciated by those whose minds had aligned with my content.
Although I had a smartphone as well, I had yet to make the next important transition in attention scamming from the laptop to the smartphone.
The reason was logical: the smartphone -and the other technologies connected to it – was just beginning its transition to ubiquity.
I recall a now-defunct phone service provider who had a shop at that time near my workplace. The store had employees standing out in front of it every day touting the benefits of 4G wireless speed. Meanwhile, the shop was perpetually empty.
The store shuttered its doors within months.
Looking back, the fate of that particular service provider was sealed due to the fact that it was ever-so-slightly ahead of its time.
As Google Trends shows, the term smartphone was beginning its rise at the same time as the term ‘cell phone’ was in decline. This reflected a shift in public knowledge that these new devices were the future: they’re at once phones, handheld computers, and can even behave as TVs if one wants them to.
But from an attention getting/ giving perspective, smartphones are infinitely more useful than traditional , desktop style computers (which includes notebooks.)
A device perpetually connected to the internet via its own service provider, while allowing seamless movement between interpersonal communication phone calls/ text messages, web content production (live image/video capture and sharing) , and even e commerce (shopping applications ) gives would be attention scammers an immensely powerful tool to participate more and more in an attention- based economy, an economy of increasingly specific things found most efficiently online, in the attention-sphere.
It is through e-commerce that a large part of the transition from the old capitalistic economy will give way to new attento-capitalist transitional economy now under way.
T- shirts, Sneakers and eBay: the Rise of the all-important app
My twin brother is t-shirt fanatic, a a taste he developed years ago when he began to peruse local thrift stores , and had tremendous luck finding vintage, name brand tees ( usually in excellent condition ) ninety-nine cents to no more than Three Dollars.
One day about three years ago, as he tells it, he was shopping for tees at a Salvation Army in Hell’s kitchen , when he came across two pairs of Nike low-tops on a rack towards the front of the store. Seeing as they were both in excellent condition , were his size , and cost about $9 apiece , he bought them.
When my brother got home something, he said , made him uncomfortable: he thought the shoes might be fakes. This concern over embarrassing himself by wearing imitation Nikes led to him doing some research on his new purchases.
His concerns were laid to rest when a Google search via the serial number on the shoes led him to the sneaker blog ‘Sneaker News’ . It was on this site that he found an explanation of the exact styles my brother had bought.
He breathed a sigh of relief; shoes were authentic.
From then on, Swaggatronn immersed himself further and further into the sneaker subculture , where footwear enthusiasts closely follow the periodic releases of collectible kicks to store, wear immediately…..
….Or to quickly sell for profit (flip!) in what is known as the sneaker aftermarket.
Ebay, PayPal and the currency of the Attention Economy.
My brother’s experience with his two thrift store Nikes would , ultimately , provide an intriguing glimpse into yet another, far larger subculture: reselling.
As he describes in the second post of his own blog about Dunks (the style he’d found at the Salvation Army) he’d worn his newfound sneakers throughout the Summer of 2014 so much so that he needed new pairs by the time Autumn arrived.
The way he went about procuring new pairs, however , was slightly abnormal : he turned to the web.
It is significant that Swaggatronn (the pen name he’d chosen) utilized a blog to conduct research on the authenticity of the two shoes he’d bought.
Blogs represent not only news; the most salient ones also represent a niche take on a particular subject. For instance, Michael Cox’s Zonalmarking blog is a sports blog with soccer / football as it’s subject, but Cox talks about the game strictly from a tactical point of view.
Conversely, the Sneaker News archive of SB dunk releases by year allowed Swaggatronn to immerse himself in the world of sneakers with a focus on what had become a favorite style of his. it also made him yearn for many of the long-gone Dunks he’d seen on the blogs – how could he go about getting them?
One thing was certain: they would not be found locally at a price which Swaggatronn could afford. Most of the Dunks he wanted had released years ago at retail; they could no longer be purchased in the conventional way for the price on the box. They could be found only in the aftermarket in various conditions,for various prices.
This is where the digital platform eBay would allow Swags to express his newfound enthusiasm for Dunks via purchases and ,ultimately, the sale of shoes
For all intents and purposes, eBay is as old as the internet ( as the common man woman knows the internet.)
Founded in late 90s , eBay thrived in relative obscurity to many until ,say, ten years ago.
The reason eBay thrived in obscurity until recently is because, for many, the age of e-commerce had yet to arrive. A good number of early adopters were active on the auction platform, trading a wide range of desired items which could not be obtained locally or IRL. It would not be until the internet had become Integrated into people’s interpersonal communication via the smartphone that the viability – – indeed the power – of online buying and trading amongst peers and businesses became obvious to the masses.
Proof of this fact is seen in Trends , where searches for eBay have declined, but searches for the eBay app – an invention literally part parcel of smartphone experience – have increased sharply since 2010.
The Ebay – PayPal link
So then, as the eBay revelation began to reveal itself to more and more searchers seeking ‘ stuff ‘ they wanted, so too did the importance of the app attached to that platform.
This is because , unlike one’s local department , whose store stock is more or less stable over long periods of time, items in the eBay marketplace change rapidly; eBay requires far more attentiveness to stay abreast of what the dynamic marketplace is doing.
eBay never closes.
This has pretty much necessitated eBay users downloading the eBay app onto their mobile devices to more easily, say, bid on an item whose end time might conflict with one’s access to a desktop or laptop computer. Meanwhile, for those on the sell side, the ability to respond to an offer for an item would likewise depend upon having that update available in real time, I.e. immediately.
The eBay app is an absolute necessity for ebay users.
Another equally important app anyone who uses ebay has grown accustomed to is PayPal, the online payment processing service which was actually owned by eBay for most of its existence until it was spun-off in the middle of 2015. It Still accounts for nearly half of eBay’s profits, according to Wikipedia.
As far as facilitating easy , safe , secure online transactions , the emergence of PayPal cannot be understated. The reluctance of many to fully embrace e-commerce in the desktop era of computers could be solely blamed on the fear buyers had of releasing personal information – Credit Card, Bank account numbers, SSN , certificate of birth , etc – to websites which they believed could be easily hacked , creating all sort problems in the real world (something the 1995 film ‘ The Net ‘ addressed.
With its existence as what amounts to being an online wallet, PayPal has since expanded , issuing credit and debit cards , plus loans to small businesses that use its service – effectively becoming an online bank. PayPal has become the currency of internet, where terms like cash or dollars are representative of simple numbers on a screen, not more.
Part 2: Feeding the System
As one who uses eBay myself , I distinctly recall getting up-and-running with the service.
After registering at PP, the expedited process entailed basically buying with cash a conversion instrument – a card sold and activated over the counter at local drug stores – to load funds into the new account which was as yet empty. I had something I wanted to buy , and even though I could have transferred funds from my bank account ( PayPal requires a linked bank account as securty, a proof of identity measure) but the card was faster. The four dollar service fee was merely a cost of doing business expeditiously, speed of payment being one of the cornerstones of the PayPal experience.
Once the funds were loaded into my PayPal account, I paid for my eBay goods, waited few days until I’d gotten my item , and was a newly-minted ebay customer.
My positive experience with ebay the first time I used it has doubtless been case for millions of people who’ve also used it to purchase desirable items online.
eBay turns the virtual into the real.
For many, the eBay experience follows a common arc: a few purchases, followed by an evolution into a seller.
This is interesting, because the most efficient way in which to increase funds and purchasing power in the virtual (attention) world of the internet is to sell stuff and be paid directly through payment processors like PayPal. Once a buyer has had a smooth, safe completion on the buy side, it is only natural for the lightbulb to click on, for most to say “I have some things i can sell too,” and for them to then consider setting up as a seller.
Just like that, then, many , many small-time online sellers are spawned; the process fulfills itself. The conversion center that is PayPal sits at the crux of an online exchange place between stuff (cash, or items to trade via line platforms) , and getting paid to trade them.
Through eBay , we learn about the ability to trade items from the real world to buyers whose only connection to us is via a common knowledge of and desire for a particular thing. This is the attention transaction.
Through PayPal , we realize the second part of that transaction: digital funds are the currency of this Attention Economy.
Search Box: the Power of the Brand
According to ‘what’s trending on ebay’, one of the most popular items based on ‘searches’ about one month ago was the fidget spinner, a simple toy that is enjoying a moment as THE trendy item to purchase.
One of the most interesting things about the Fidget Spinner is the fact that there is no one particular brand that owns it; the toy itself is the craze.
This means that as long as the toy remains popular, anyone with the means to make it in whichever variation they choose can sell them. As such , there are literally hundreds of different spinners in the market, being purchased based on a wide variety of factors: looks, shape, colors, etc.
Kate Spade handbags
In sharp contrast to the Spinner, another item on the eBay trending page at that time was the Kate Spade handbag, an item that is most definitely the property of the Kate Spade brand.
Now, say one magically found him or herself in possession of both a randomly chosen Fidget Spinner and a Kate Spade handbag, both in brand new condition.Now supoose one were looking to feed them both into the online economy in exchange for funds.
What would be the outcome?
My guess is that the handbag would sell rather quickly (assuming of course, reasonable pricing, accurate listing, etc) and the Fidget Spinner might take any amount of time to sell.
Why? because with the handbag, an eBay seller is aiming his or her product squarely at those who have a keen enough interest in Kate Spade handbags that they are typing it into search box. Such people are seeking a very specific name or brand, not just an item which more or less anyone can provide. On the contrary, the Fidget searcher really has far less clue exactly what he or she expects, outside of a generalized idea of look and function (does it spin?).
The most successful items to sell on eBay – and the internet at large -are those with a very salient brand name attached to them. In an otherwise cluttered environment like the eBay marketplace, or online shopping in general , looks and function are simply not enough for long term relevance and buy/sell transaction. Attention transactions increasingly require specificity.
Recent news in the business world tells that one of the biggest crises has en the demise of big department stores.
If the rise of these mammoth shopping centers for stuff people want yet don’t necessarily need rested upon their ability to stock massive amounts of wide-ranging stuff in one location, their struggle in this AE-Consumerist (late Capitalist) phase can be attributed to the same: shoppers now want more of less.
To bring it back to sneakers, how many people are aware that there now exists an online stock market for them, StockX?
What started as a pet project by former IBM analyst Josh Luber to gather data on the value of collectible sneakers years ago has morphed into a live marketplace which facilitates transactions of trading pairs of kicks online. Kickstarted by investment from successful businessman Dan Gilbert, StockX has seen exponential growth, and has risen to prominence , eventually expanding the services it offers to trading for handbags (fancy that), watches, and more.
In the near future of e-commerce, StockX will be a prominent player.
But he does StockX relate at all to the fate of big department stores?
For an item to have any value as a StockX listing, it needs to be the sort of item with such salience that when it hits the retail market , buyers buy enough that the item sells out in stores , and thereafter is sought in aftermarket or resale market. Many if not most sellers and traders on eBay or StockX are looking to profit from items traded , so they must be selective about the types of stuff they’re investing in to resell.For the first time ,perhaps ever, the idea that one’s clothes or footwear are assets is literally being touted to the average shopper.
Anyone is a potential small business.
It would thus behoove one to buy wisely, to buy Kate Spade or Nike or Jordan , Adidas ,and Gucci than, say, a no-frills or notoriously cheap generic brand. The reason is simple : brands sell items which ,due to marketing necessity, are positioned, named, priced, colored etc, to stand out at the expense of those that don’t.
In the near future, those salient items will dominate online purchases, much like Google dominates most people’s experience of navigating the internet (and we don’t mind).
One of the byproducts of the AE is consolidation of focus: people look to simplify and narrow down what they align their minds to, all while more brands compete for tbeir mindspace. Themost successful brands will be the ones who can produce a number of very specific things – duly named – which will stick with potential buyers mentally. Generalization of the sort the big megastores traditionally specialized in will wane sharply .
In the transitional phases of commerce , small and specific will become the new Big……