GOLDSTEIN: Does one accumulate a sort of wealth when one pays attention to something before others do?
GOLDHABER: Well, it’s discovery, and then you’re in a position to get attention because you become known as the first to know. Like when I read Tolkien in 1959.
GOLDSTEIN: You accrued influence.
GOLDHABER: Yes, I accrued influence from that. When you are the first, consistently, you accumulate a great deal of influence. That reminds me of another idea I had about looking at commercial things. And it stuck me that if somebody’s going to pay $10,000 for a watch, let’s say, they will want a watch that other people will be impressed by. How do they find that out? Well one way is how many people have looked at the Web site of that watch. They haven’t bought the watch; they don’t have the money to buy the watch necessarily…
GOLDHABER: Yeah, but they’re impressed by the watch, they keep going back to it perhaps or something like that. So just paying attention to that. If there were a way just sort of…
GOLDSTEIN: It’s like fashion. Couture – they sell the couture dress off the runway for $20,000, and the normal version is $300. They don’t expect to sell the $20,000 one. It stands there as a spime.
GOLDHABER: Right, right, right. And if it gets a picture in the paper, then it’s worth a lot more probably than if nobody bothers to depict it so nobody knows what it looks like. So again, I think that people might even be willing to pay for the knowledge of what gets a lot of attention. If there were some way of tracking that so that you know that you’re buying that right watch even if nobody else has one.
GOLDSTEIN: Yes, and perhaps you specifically don’t want others to own that watch. If you see people with the same one, it cheapens it. Exclusivity.
GOLDHABER: It might even be a way of raising the price, like art. If you buy a Cezanne, you have to pay a fortune, because everybody knows who Cezanne is.
GOLDSTEIN: So does the economics of this would be along the lines of “I want to pay attention to something that nobody else is paying attention to, with the hope that subsequent people will end up paying attention to it.”
GOLDSTEIN: I’m going to make an investment.
GOLDHABER: In this case, it does involve money. I actually want to have it. I want to have this because I want the attention of everyone who’s envious of me or excited by it or impressed by it.
GOLDSTEIN: …the psychology of the collector.
GOLDHABER: I don’t understand why people pay $10,000 for watches, but people do.
GOLDSTEIN: Status symbols.
GOLDHABER: Yeah, status, attention, whatever. It’s not telling time, that’s for sure.
GOLDSTEIN: Well, EBay is a marketplace - different kind of attention marketplace - where you collect something that accrues in value because other people are paying attention to it and then you can sell it. EBay is less about the Attention Economy and more about the Intention Economy.
(thread 6 of conversation with between seth goldstein and michael goldhaber after oreilly's attention economy conference, in march of 2006 in oakland)