The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads

Ours is often called an information economy, but at a moment when access to information is virtually unlimited, our attention has become the ultimate commodity. In nearly every moment of our waking lives, we face a barrage of efforts to harvest our attention. Wu’s narrative begins in the nineteenth century, when Benjamin Day discovered he could get rich selling newspapers for a penny. Since the early days, the basic business model of “attention merchants” has never changed: free diversion in exchange for a moment of your time, sold in turn to the highest-bidding advertiser.