“The Economy of Bartered Time and Attention”

That’s San Francisco entrepreneur Alex Rowland’s neat explanation of the era in which we find ourselves online. In his continuing series of essays on open versus closed distribution networks, Alex explores the difficult question of how to make money when everything is free.

While time and attention is not itself liquid, there is already a group of people who specialize in converting time and attention into real dollars. They’re called advertisers…

…Once producers learn how to combine the inherent advantages of open networks with low-cost content development, the result can actually be greater profitability with less risk on smaller capital investments. But in order to realize these benefits, producers must learn to master the economics of time and attention. They must focus less effort on building walls and more on building community; less focus on the lecture and more focus on the conversation.

Most will fail. But some old media dinosaurs will make the leap from closed to open. In doing so, they will join an emerging global community of millions of producers, advertisers, and consumers, each striving to contribute something valuable to the conversation. The result will be a network defined by a staggering degree of diversity, but also rich in the possibility of profit.

The thing I like most about Alex’s writing is that it comes from the mind of an entrepreneur. He’s always thinking money, but his personality is packed with creativity and possibility. He’s right, of course, and I’ll add that the real explosion in all of this will take place when local advertisers jump into the pond. That is just around the corner.

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