Advertising Hazards: Your Attention is a Commodity That Can Be Manipulated | Tim Wu

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“My Experience is What I Agree to Pay Attention to,” said psychologist William James. And therein lies the problem and danger of advertising: we don’t always agree or choose to pay attention, but it shapes our life experience irrevocably. Wu’s latest book is “The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads” (


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Transcript – So there was a man named Benjamin Day who I call the first of the attention merchants, the founder of the New York Sun, who was in his own way a business genius and an innovator. He had this idea which was as opposed to selling a newspaper for six cents which was the normal way of doing it, he would sell his newspaper for a penny and try and attract an enormous audience and resell that audience to advertisers. So the newspapers at the time, the six penny papers, they’re a little bit boring. They covered politics and finance. They didn’t have crime stories, that kind of thing. And he introduced a sort of a far more interesting newspaper. The very first issue was all about the suicide of a man who had been separated from his lover. It had stories of death, mayhem, destruction, gossip and was sold at such a low price that he managed to attract these enormous audiences which then were resold to advertisers. Now the thing about that penny price is it was a money losing proposition unless you sold enough and unless you reach enough advertisers to make it worth it. So he pioneered this unusual business model which today is found in as many places as Google, Facebook, Instagram, you know, it’s sort of taken over our lives. Read Full Transcript Here:


Richard McDonald says:

this IS an ad…

maak says:

I feel like there should be a paid internet like paid TV. On the paid internet no ads exist and no one collects your information or follows what your doing.

Ivo Teixeira says:

I have never bought anything because I saw an ad and was like: "Hey, I want that!"… Never!
When I usually NEED something I got ot diferent stores, compare product and prices. GO HOME. Think about it for a week or so, and THEN buy something… If I actually decide that I need to spend money on it. #informeddecision

Nathanael Furtado says:

Great insights

James Bradley says:

Memes are abstractive lifeform's that feed on conscious awareness.

The Last Straw says:

To quote the late Bill Hicks~ If you're in marketing or advertising, KILL YOURSELF!

illmatc says:

even platforms such as Medium even TDE tailor their content in an Ad-like kind of way… it irritates me because I read between the lines and before I am finished watching or reading a piece I realize I have subtly been sold a product or an idea. People do not realize the underground warfare going on to manipulate us.

sam oh says:

Tim Wu is Japan's latest model humanoid robot :D

jnzkngs says:

Advertising is what is pushing self driving cars. In a few years we are all going to be in Wall-E hover chairs. That's why you can't hardly get a new car without an "infotainment" system and why it's being pushed as acceptable behavior to be distracted enough behind the wheel to need assisted breaking.

Codswallop says:

We are what Facebook wants us to be.

Surisis says:

You idiots just listened to a fucking book pitch. An advertisement. Congratulations.

bananabucket says:


bigolbear the jammy dodger says:

Silence Plebe! You have 2 hours of mandatory TV watching left today, hop to it.

nothingtosee says:

what's interesting or more desirable does not necessarily equal a better product, but it attracts more people. this is the fundamental fault of the free market

JerechoNC says:

if there are so many revolting against advertising why havent i met anyone else doing the same? where are you guys? I was beginning to worry that i was alone. ha

Mr. Donzo says:

finally a good video.

David Remus says:

It's a good thing I haven't seen an ad since 2008

Sacratease says:

I am what I attend to.

Lucio Cuddeford says:

This is a very important message

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