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Liquid Attention Markets

What happens when consumer can take control of their attention as an asset?

TL;DR:

  1. Attention drives consumer business revenue.

  2. Onchain economy enables attention tokenization.

  3. Attention divides into active focus and passive mindshare.

  4. Token ownership might change traditional valuation models.

  5. Future models could embed tokenized attention in everyday products.

Attention is the scarcest asset because the raw material of attention is time. While it would be wonderful to create time, it's (currently) not possible. Time is a constrained resource.

All consumer businesses are built on attention as a core resource. Attracting and retaining attention and funneling it into consumer spending is the core business of every consumer brand and entertainment franchise, for instance.

Traditional businesses and models leverage attention as input to generate cash as output. Cashflow is the second-order effect of attention.

The onchain economy introduces new capabilities. One such capability is tokenizing intangible assets, such as attention.

A lot has been written about the latest memecoin frenzy as a proxy for tokenized attention. I even wrote some about it myself back in February [link].

Still, it's early days. The dynamics of tokenized attention are underexplored and not yet well understood, as are its possible effects on business models, valuation models, etc.

What follows are some musings around attention, tokenizing it, and the dynamics that follow.

Attention in the Context of Tokens

Attention flows can be likened to cash flows in a business, but there is one vital difference. Cash is a tangible asset that can be compounded over time. If a business operates with a 15% annual yield on invested capital and starts with $1000, it will have $1150 after one year and ≈$1520 after the third. Basic math.

This doesn't work for attention. Attention is an intangible asset and a continuous stream of engagement/focus. You either have someone's attention or you don't.

But, let's separate attention into two sub-categories:

  • Active attention (where my focus is right now, real-time)

  • Passive attention (retained mindshare)

Through this lens, acquiring a token where the primary value-driver is attention, we could say that

  • buying a token is proof of (previous) active attention

  • holding the token signals retained mindshare (I still care about it)

Compounding Attention

If we follow this arc, we will end up in an interesting place; passive attention, represented as token ownership, is a tangible asset, and tangible assets can be compounded over time.

In traditional business, it's commonplace to value businesses based on their cash flows and potential to compound over time.

It's interesting to consider what new valuation models may become relevant (and old ones that need to be rethought) in a context where businesses can compound attention as a first-order mechanism rather than compounding cash (second-order).

Attention flows may be relevant, like cash flows for traditional businesses in this context.

We can make it even more interesting by considering how value-streaming technologies like Superfluid can be incorporated into business models to directly connect active attention and tokens, too.

Imagine an onchain music streaming service where artist tokens are streamed in real-time to the user as she plays music from the artist.

New Products, Shifting Consumer Behaviour

Let's return to memecoins. Tokenized attention in this form is currently tightly coupled with financial speculation. But in the future, these tokens could be distributed and rewarded through other mechanisms, dampening the (overly) financial aspect. The streaming example I mentioned above is one example.

If all of the above can be true and come to fruition, it opens up space for novel products and business models that will also shape new consumer behaviors:

Attention as scarce, but tangible and user-owned assets. Being onchain means users can access liquid markets where this attention can be traded.

I don't think the end-state is the current over-financialized, exchange-driven way to trade attention. Rather, it will be embedded into the core of product experiences as a new primitive. One example that comes to mind (that's been around since way before this latest memecoin cycle) is the Basic Attention Token (BAT) from the Brave browser: It's a web browser with an embedded crypto wallet. When browsing, users can opt into ads. These ads run on a Brave-controlled ad network, and revenue from ads is split between Brave and users. Users receive these rewards as BAT tokens into their wallets and swap those tokens for fiat money or use the tokens to pay for content and services in the browser.

I'm not sure where this train of thought ends, so bear with me and consider this a work in progress. If you have any suggestions or feedback I would love to hear it.


Please reach out on Farcaster (@brg) if you have any thoughts, ideas, feedback etc.

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