14 Apr On the Web, attention spans shrink, the need for value rises
Andy Warhol, who once said everyone will be famous for 15 minutes, couldn’t imagine the influence the Internet, blogging, social networks, and Web 2.0 might have on his prediction.
With these tools, everyone can have their 15 minutes – but just 15 minutes. Maybe not even that. It seems that 15 minutes is about all anyone has time for these days, at least in the echo chamber of Silicon Valley.
I was reminded of this after coming back from a near three-week holiday out of the country and off the grid. Folks were atwitter about Twitter.com, a site that hadn’t hit the radar before I left, and one that was fading from the screen by the time I’d returned.
I was reminded of the speed at which rising stars arch and fade when speaking with a group last week about consumer business models. Talk centered on search-word marketing, targeted advertising, and free-to-consumer services with the expectation that successful sites would capture and keep customers visiting their sites.
But many in the room had overlooked an essential truth: each consumer has only limited time and attention to spend with any one business. It’s not that hot-today, cold-tomorrow businesses are flash-in-the-pan fads, but rather they demand that consumers give them their most limited commodities: time and attention.
Viral marketing plans and hyped-up site launches may capture initial attention and traffic, but without a “there” there, consumers have no reason to continue to spend their time on any site. In hundreds of discussions with Web-centric start ups, this fundamental fact is rarely fully considered in business plans or models.
Hype is not enough
Instead, these sites wrongly believe that if they build it and TechCrunch hypes it, they’ll have a business. Those sites that do manage to capture and keep consumer attention rarely have a clear understanding of the value of that consumer attention, or to trade that value for capital advantage.
Ten years ago, this type of business thinking laid the groundwork for an economic bubble. Fortunately, the economic levers at work in today’s market prevent over-inflation. Still, the challenge of the short-attention-span phenomenon should be a warning to entrepreneurs and investors from the outset of their business planning.
These excited start ups need to think differently and carefully about value creation, not just about cool widgets and Web 2.0 mashups.
Suffice to say, as I turn my attention to screening companies for DEMOfall 2007, I’ll be asking start ups not just about their sexy technology, but also about their plans to build a real business from it.
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Shipley has covered the personal technology business since 1984, and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. She has worked as a writer and editor for a variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine, and Working Woman.
She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, she has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the No. 1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.
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