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Paying (for) Attention

ZURICH – It is fashionable nowadays to talk about personal attention as a commodity or even a currency. Many companies are looking for ways to automate the act of “paying attention” to individual customers on a grand scale, even as many of them also confuse attention with intention (to buy). Indeed, “attention” is becoming more interesting now that the Internet makes it easier to measure it.

But attention is neither a currency nor a commodity. It can be bought and sold, to some extent, but it cannot be traded to third parties, and it is not entirely fungible.