Who owns your attention anyway?

Too deeply buried in the (very interesting) discussion here  and here bout how hard it is to get enough traffic to a website to make it generate big money is a more provocative question, to wit:

Who owns YOUR attention and how much is your attention worth?

Big players are making huge profits reselling your attention in the form of placing targeted advertising while you search and surf for info. I have no complaints about that in principle (in fact I feed my kids from that!) , and even agree, somewhat reluctantly, with the assertion that advertising can often enhance the search experience by providing you with sales info on products related to your searches and surfing.

However I’m not sure the power curve is properly placed right now. Rather the big players like Yahoo, Google, MS call most of the shots and reap most of the profits while we, the little sheeples, use their (good) services, often at no charge. It’s certainly a win-win scenario for most, but you can make a strong case that Google, as the big recipient of the big bucks, wins more than you do. Frankly though I don’t know the equation here – what am I worth to Google or Yahoo or MSN?

Over at Battelle’s during a discussion of Microsoft’s new plans to pay big users to use MS products a reader suggested it would take over $50 per month for him to switch to MS search rather than his preferred Google. This raises a very interesting question about what he’s worth to them. I wrote over there:

Pay to use may be the shape of things to come as users begin to realize that they, and not the big players, are the key to internet success. Yaacov’s point is key – would he really want $600 annually to use MS search? If so he’s not typical. I bet you could get most people to abandon Google in favor of LIVE (which is close, but not as good as Google), for $50 per year or less.

In fact I bet you could get most people to switch engines for $10 per month and some for $5 or less. Why don’t they do it? MS had plans and I think they eventually will try this “pay to search” model, which is strong and moves closer to the user ideal of owning their own attention.

When you sell my attention to the highest bidders, shouldn’t I get a piece of the action?

Another related NYT Article

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