The Intention Economy

Is "The Attention Economy" just another way for advertisers to skewer eyeballs? And why build an economy around Attention, when Intention is where the money comes from?

That's the question at the front of my mind as I hear one speaker after another struggle to cast light on "The Attention Economy", which is the theme of this year's eTech conference, where I am sitting in an audience, writing this, right now.

I've been looking forward to what Steve Gillmor would say about Attention here, since Steve got this meme rolling two years ago with attention.xml, and later helped launch the Attention Trust., with Seth Goldstein and some other folks. Search for "Steve Gillmor" and Attention on Google, and 113,000 results come up.

Steve is a good friend. I'm a member of his weekly Gillmor Gang podcast. He's talked about attention many times on many shows, and even has a radio show on Sirius called Attention Tech. And yet, I've got to admit, I've never understood more than a fraction of what he's talking about — even when I've given him my full attention. (Which isn't easy for a techie typically given to "continuous partial attention", as Linda Stone pointed out in one of eTech's best talks.)

Steve isn't here at eTech. Nor has he been mentioned in any of the talks I've attended, which is ironic at several levels. Especially since the center of Steve's attention has moved on to Gestures. Steve was slated to talk about Gestures here at eTech, so it looks like I'm stuck with TWO things he still hasn't made clear to me.

Which is cool. Steve is patient with me on stuff I don't understand. Meanwhile, here at the show, I have developed a real problem with the perspective behind what a number of people have been saying about Attention behind the podia. That perspective is sell-side. Its point of view is anchored with sellers, not buyers.

This is natural. Most of us are in business, one way or another. We're sellers who want buyers. And the Web 2.0 economy, like the Web 1.0 economy, continues to repose in the Media Economy, which continues to live off advertising. Even the biggest success story in the Web Economy (through Web 1.x, 2.x and beyond, probably), Google, makes nearly all of its money from advertising.

Google has radically altered the whole advertising business. It's results are far more relevant and personal than anything the old mass media ever came up with. And its system opens participation to countless businesses and categories, of all sizes. But it's still about advertising. And advertising is woefully inefficient. Most of it is wasted. Even by Google.

Recently a friend placed some advertising on Google, and shared some of the report with me. While he only paid for a handful of click-throughs, these were bought at the expense of something like a hundred thousand "exposures". While the costs of wasted exposures may be tolerably low to both the sell and the buy side, they are still real. They subtract value.

There is an old saying in the advertising trade: "I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. I just don't know which half." Typical of the advertising business, this a gross exaggeration. Nearly all advertising is wasted. Google may have radically reduced the amount of money wasted in advertising. But it still produces a mountain of waste and expense.

In the hallway yesterday I was talking with r0ml Lefkowitz, who now works with Seth Goldstein at r0ml was talking about how his brother, not a techie, didn't understand what r0ml meant by working with "attention". After r0ml explained, his brother said, "Oh, isn't that what they used to call 'eyeballs'?"

Bull's Eye.

Now, I'm sure eyeballs aren't what Steve Gillmor means by Attention. Or what Seth and r0ml mean, either. In fact, r0ml explained to me that is actually concerned with something much simpler and less creepy than eyeballs; namely, leads. In other words, people who are ready to buy.

Though I'm not much more comfortable being a "lead" than being an "eyeball", at least "lead" regards me as a potential buyer, rather than as yet another "consumer" who might become a buyer if I find a "message" persuasive. The chance of that happening in any individual case is so close to zero that advertising only yields useful numbers in the calculus of mass marketing. Which, even in 2006, at eTech, we still use.

So I'm thinking, Can't we get past that now? Please?

Hence my idea: The Intention Economy.

The Intention Economy grows around buyers, not sellers. It leverages the simple fact that buyers are the first source of money, and that they come ready-made. You don't need advertising to make them.

The Intention Economy is about markets, not marketing. You don't need marketing to make Intention Markets.

The Intention Economy is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In The Intention Economy, customers don't have to fly from silo to silo, like a bees from flower to flower, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype) like so much pollen. In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer's purchase. Simple as that.

The Intention Economy is built around more than transactions. Conversations matter. So do relationships. So do reputation, authority and respect. Those virtues, however, are earned by sellers (as well as buyers) and not just "branded" by sellers on the minds of buyers like the symbols of ranchers burned on the hides of cattle.

The Intention Economy is about buyers finding sellers, not sellers finding (or "capturing") buyers.

In The Intention Economy, a car rental customer should be able to say to the car rental market, "I'll be skiing in Park City from March 20-25. I want to rent a 4-wheel drive SUV. I belong to Avis Wizard, Budget FastBreak and Hertz 1 Club. I don't want to pay up front for gas or get any insurance. What can any of you companies do for me?" — and have the sellers compete for the buyer's business.

This car rental use case is one I've used to illustrate what would be made possible by "user-centric" or "independent" identity, which was also the subject of the cover story in last October's Linux Journal, plus this piece a year earlier, and various keynotes I've given at Digital Identity World, going back to 2002. It is also the use case against which the new open source Higgins project was framed.

Even though I've been thinking out loud about Independent Identity for years, I didn't have a one-word adjective for the kind of market economy it would yield, or where it would thrive. Now, thanks to all the unclear talk at eTech about attention, intentional is that adjective, because intent is the noun that matters most in any economy that gives full respect to what only customers can do, which is buy.

Like so many other things that I write about (including everything I've written about identity), The Intention Economy is a provisional idea. It's an observation that might have no traction at all. Or, it might be a snowball: an core idea with enough heft to roll, and with enough adhesion to grow, so others add their own thoughts and ideas to it.

As for the Linux connection, I believe that The Intention Economy is, by necessity, built on free software and open source principles, practices, standards and code. It's not something that requires any company's "platform" or "environment". That's why, much as I like the services provided by companies like Orbitz (which is built on LAMP, and does a very good job), I believe no company's system can encompass The Intention Economy. The encompassing has to work the other way around. In other words, silos are fine. But the choice can't be "nothing but silos".

By the way, somewhere in the course of writing this, Michael Goldhaber gave an outstanding talk titled The Real Nature of the Emerging Attention Economy. Yesterday Seth Goldstein called Michael "the Einstein of Attention" or something like that. I couldn't disagree. I don't see a link to Michael's talk yet, but The Attention Economy and the Net may suffice in the meantime.

While I didn't disagree with anything Michael said (and learned quite a bit by listening attentively to him), I also believe we need to start viewing economies, and markets, from the inside out: from the single buyer toward the surrounding world of sellers. And to start constructing technical solutions to the buyer's problem of getting what he or she wants from markets, rather than the seller's problem of getting buyers' attention.

Tags: , , , .


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


atlas's picture

In 2009, the percentage of uninsured under age 65 was 46 million (17.5 percent), for people aged 18 to 64 was 40 million (21.1 percent, and 6.1 million children under age 18 (8.2 percent) were uninsured.seo


Ronald's picture

World wide web browsing this server is very important for us we can get information from here and its easy for us i like it and thanks for you

custom logo design


Ronald's picture

Hi nice article i like it it will be most famous site of the world if it upgraded more then others

custom logo design


Ronald's picture

Its a site i think for and editing this site designed beautiful and must be more change and uprated day by day

custom logo design

real economy

freddy's picture

i just hope that the 'intention economy' is the real economy.

phoenix self storage

Nice Post

Mark_Spenser's picture

The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me.

business logo
satellite internet services
denver broncos tickets


Mark_Spenser's picture

Nice thoughts, but you weren't the first to think of it!

business logo
satellite internet services
denver broncos tickets

Nice thoughts

Mark_Spenser's picture

Nice thoughts, but you weren't the first to think of it!

business logo
satellite internet services
denver broncos tickets

Nice thoughts

Mark_Spenser's picture

Nice thoughts, but you weren't the first to think of it!
Did a google search and found his:

custom logo design

I have to disagree

Mark_Spenser's picture

I have to disagree. Our business is designer radiators and if we didn't advertise these pre existing buyers would go elsewhere.

custom logo design

I think that the intention

grocery coupons's picture

I think that the intention economy is, by necessity, built on free software and open source principles, practices, standards and code.


Mark Spenser's picture

I have to disagree. Our business is designer radiators and if we didn't advertise these pre existing buyers would go elsewhere.

business logo
satellite internet services
visit denver

Nice Work

Sam Pierce's picture

Nice thoughts, but you weren't the first to think of it!
Did a google search and found his:

custom logo design


john smith's picture

Thank you very much for posting this article. Its a very useful article. We will be acquire lot of things from this site.So i want some information about this post.

business logo
visit denver
denver attractions


john smith's picture

The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept. Thank you for the post.

custom logo design

I have to disagree. Our

Chris Cooper's picture

I have to disagree. Our business is designer radiators and if we didn't advertise these pre existing buyers would go elsewhere.


bryan furry's picture

What a utilization of tools and effects you did, It's really amazing work, I am inspired by your work and obviously this blog is perfect.

business logo design

Nice work!

bryan furry's picture

Character Illustration is an important part to design your web, it attracts more traffic to your web.
I like your illustration work, your creativity and designs are really amazing.

logo design


Jason's picture

Nice thoughts, but you weren't the first to think of it!

Marketers and Madison Avenue

common's picture

Marketers and Madison Avenue operators like to reduce consumers to either/or “types”—paper or plastic, boxers or briefs, cotton or cashmere, Honda or Mercedes, Cristal or Bud--you get the idea. But what often fails to register in such a superficial worldview are the specific reasons behind what we choose when presented with a “this or that?” decision. Business Logo Design

I disagree with your ideas on

ktunnel's picture

I disagree with your ideas on advertising. Yes there are buyers and they want a specific product, but many people like hype and are drawn in by an advertisement that sparks there interest. Walmart is a good example; many people do not need most of the junk they sell, but still when you walk through the place items catch your eye that you probably would not have purchased otherwise.

Basically it goes both ways and advertising, inefficient as it is, brings in a few customers.

Lastly Utopia's never work and economics is never perfect. Free markets are our best inventions so far.

Attention or Intention

Ashish Gupta's picture

Ian pointed out this blog in response to my blog below.

Some key points from my blog:
Attention data has been used for centuries by salespeople in shops. But salespeople also use other data about customers which they glean from direct interaction and their relationship with customers which actually make attention data useful.
Attention data on web lacks the information about peoples feeling and reactions.
Attention data on web also lack the information about person’s actual situation and interest.


Don't be the middle men

Anonymous's picture

Doc great article! Thanks for sharing.

What I see happening is that in the end there will be tow markets. Customer markets(those who handle the customer interface) and production markets(does who don't). Companies need to make choices which game they play. Customer markets are great in "intention marketing". Their loyalty is with the customer. This is an absolute service business. Evolved out of the known web 2.0: social network,recommendations, AI, profile mngt, Identity.
Second group is facilitating co-creation, customization and open innovation. The middle men(which doesn't exist anymore) are the brands of today..


Home Remedies For Yeast Infection's picture

Interesting thought about customer markets and production markets

Confusion between push and pull markets

Daniel Tschentscher's picture

Doc - your article is brilliant, but there's still something that bothers me. If we talk about an "intention economy" in the sense described above, don't we just come up with a new name for a "pull market" of information. Because in the end, your scenario describes nothing else than a user pulling the information he or she requests, with the only difference that the information pull goes smoothly without the wastage of irrelevant information that today cloaks search results and similar aproaches. A perfect "pull" of information would thus give me excactly the information I'm looking for - and yes, this is a buyer market.

However, this scenario does not attack the problem of push markets. If a marketer is able to identify (or create) needs that I haven't even been aware of, there is no intention on my site that would lead me to request the information on his or her product (simply because I didn't can't have an intention on buying a product that I know nothing about). Thus, there will also be marketing ways that will suggest me products that might bring up my attention although I had no intention of buying them before. I think the real point is here to think about how we can infer from user profiles what might be interesting for them (which obviously goes far beyond demographics), and I believe that this will be second market besides the intention market (think of Amazon recommend as an example).

They are going way too far,

Gainstitall's picture

They are going way too far, its actualy rediculos. You are being sold anything these days, infact very little control over your own life is left. The whole of modern society is bout big bucks and it should change, as you say it has all gone too far.

Brands and the Intention Economy

Brian Phipps's picture

As a market model I think the Intention Economy makes perfect sense.

In my opinion, a key factor in making it work will be a renovated concept of brand. (And I do mean renovated, from the customer up.) These would not be conventional top-down brands, and would certainly have nothing in common with the bankrupt brands of "branding" campaigns, or those tied to marketing make-believe and manipulation.

Rather, they're brands designed as collaborations in context between buyers and sellers. Their purpose is to deliver value customers can use.

I’ve addressed these and related issues in more detail in “Brands and the Intention Economy

From Intention to Inattention in an Eyeblink

Susan Tait's picture

I appreciated this article. Speaking as a buyer, I find myself slipping into an "Inattention Economy" because I can't get sellers to listen to what I want.

The problems were similar whether I was shopping for new cell phones, laptops, cameras, or electronic games. I'm amused to notice that I do best when I wait on purchases for price drops: when the salesman isn't selling the Newest Thing, he's much more likely to be rational in his conversation. Yes, it's usually a "he." Here's what sellers do that prevent me from spending:

  1. Sellers focus on what marketing research said I ought to want based on demographics. This is especially true for "problems" that I "need" to have solved. Someone has forgotten that statistics don't necessarily apply to the individual.
  2. Sellers use made-up words that can't be explained easily, for concepts that aren't relevant to the problem I'm trying to solve.
  3. Sellers don't want me to describe my context, which would cause them to stop using invented words and restricting reality to the scenarios imagined by the marketing people.

If you really watch me closely, you can tell when the Intention has shifted to Inattention. It occurs whenever I notice that the salesman has pigeonholed himself into one of the above categories. And that always comes from regarding me as an object to be relieved of cash, according to formula, instead of a person.

It's like Ebay, only inverted

Anonoymous's picture

Maybe this is obvious, but Ebay is the inverse of this; the sellers have the intention. "I have this product/service, who wants it?" It's a huge transaction and information network, but it's the sellers who ultimately drive it, with buyers competing for the product or service. How would you turn this around to give buyers the clout? The only way I see is if the seller stands to gain more than by doing it the old way and there's enough smart consumers who will buy from that model. It will require sellers, service providers or industries who actually have the customers best interests in mind, which neatly rules out car sales and real estate for starters.

To gain traction, it needs a profitable application, but we're all so used to thinking the traditional way it might be hard to come up with. It also requires agile feedback and negotiation, which sellers and providers aren't traditionally good at.

Great article though.


Intention as Art

Mad's picture

The Intention economy has a nice ring, as in thoughtful, considered, perhaps artful? If the sellars are, say artists, selling products handmade with the intention of changing or upleveling how people live and think, does this fit the intention economy? It may begin to craft a shift in what people buy, certainly how. Direct from the makers. Add local into the equation, and the intentional economy becomes about choice, and more options, from the buyers standpoint.

Intention Economy sounds good but won't work

Anonymous's picture

The concept of the intention economy sounds good. If it worked, if it existed, I would certainly use it. I've even tried using it, before the internet had become as popular as it is today. Let me tell you how dismally it failed.

In about 1996, I had a car I'd owned for a long time. The car (a midsize Japanese import) was still running fine, but it was long in the tooth on style and features. I had a bad case of "new car fever". Having had the car a long time, not having shopped for a car in a long time, I didn't want to "go shopping". I wanted to articulate my specs, put them forward, then entertain proposals. Just exactly as you describe the Intention Economy.

To get this to work, I got the Yellow pages, found all the car dealers, and sent them all a form letter in which, just like a business to business Request for Quotation (RFQ), I asked them for a proposal and a price. I speced a midsized car, sport sedan, feature, feature. What did they have that met the spec, or was at least close, and what would it cost me.

What did I get for a response? I was ignored by amost all. I got a few phone calls from salesmen saying, "Come on in, I can show you what we've got, make you a deal".

Any counter proposal to discuss his make, model, price over the phone was abjectly refused. He wanted me in his space, under his rules of engagement, at a significant Information Disadvantage. What was really in play here was the uneven playing field of his Information Advantage over me. He had the real numbers and I had little or nothing to use in his presense for defense of my best interest. There would be Time Pressure to make a decision on the spot.

Advantage: the Selling Organization.

My conclusion was that anything like I wanted would be resisted vigorously by the Sellers simply because it would change the rules of engagement to the advantage of the Buyer. We can't have that, can we?

So, nice try. Good marks on wishful thinking. But, it won't work.


Buying a Car?

Stephen's picture

Are you kidding? Buying a car is typically the second largest purchase that a consumer makes, and is a very emotional process. There is no way to sell a car over the phone, that is no way to build a relationship that generates repeat business and personal referrals.

It isn't sellers vs. buyers

Doc Searls's picture

All due respect to your experience (and I've had many like it myself), we're talking about building something new in the networked marketplace where Demand has many advantages it did not enjoy in the Industrial Age. And where it would be wise (and lucrative) for Supply to leverage those same advantages.

So I guess you could say The Intention Economy is about Supply AND Demand, not Supply VS. Demand.

Sure, many suppliers will work to "capture" and "own" customers and whole markets. But tha's a progressively less realistic (or useful) ambition in open and competitive markets.

How can we improve the way supply meets demand? I think there are lots of ways. And that it's still early.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Intention Economy sounds good but won't work

John Madelin's picture

I agree that continued imbalance in favour of the vendors will be a feature short to medium term - take a look at my Blog on the subject here: I share your cynicism to some degree. I believe I coined the phrase "identity assymetry" in that blog and was excited to see your use of the phrase "information disadvantage".
Over the long term though the fact that the web is a frictionless place and that so many facets are coalescing (social, culutural, technical) means that models are being disintermediated quite fast.

In the UK 02 the mobile service provider is gaining ground fast, off the back of its I-Mode launch for example, with marketing images of frictionless buying and selling anytime anywhere.

My uncle and Aunt (not lead adopters by any stretch) are using their digital TV to price-compare and shop in surprisingly sophisticated ways that are just starting to disadvantage the vendor.

By the sound of it this should be encouraging imagery for you given your dissapointing experience!

Ecosocial and Identity Metasystem Implications

John Madelin's picture

I absolutely subscribe to the views that this implies, specifically:

(1) The 21st Century Identity Infrastructure needs to be completely independant of 19th century process, and 20th century legacy technology supports. The identity needs to float free in an information space, with a richness, intelligence and logical personality that just isn't anticipated in today's models, nor in the outpourings of any of the standards bodies.
Even "forward thinking" initiatives and conversations such as "web 2.0" still imply machine to machine and application to machine (etc) connectivity. However "semantic" this might become, it is still based on an old model of physical and hardware/application based approaches centred in the offering, rather than in the user.

(2) For identity to reflect the capability implied in this piece, which I believe is inevitable, we will need to better understand semiotics, ecosocial issues, cultural melt and the delicate utlities and preferences of the retail sector, amongst other things. The writings of Lemke ( ) are almost as informative as those of Liberty, SAML, or any one of the technology vendors in informing our understanding of how this new and properly identity centred world might operate. For example, imagine that the Doc's vision is fulfilled and that there are 10 times as many chinese identities floating around in this information/opportunity space as any other individual cultural segment. Better understanding behaviours, preferences, and cultural/linguistic perspectives on intent and commit will be more informed by these ecosocial issues than by the content of a SOAP wrapper per se.

(3) The "hi-tech" sector is a teetering dinosaur. The huge monoliths of their (our!) industrialised business offerings depend on a different view of life, one in which a big and complicated back end (rather than a rich and fully featured portable and logical identity) is of greatest importance (at least to their survival).
As environmental issues force change many of them seem oblivious to the inevitable and rapidly approaching brick wall of change as they continue to invest in extending and expanding to scale their offerings ever outwards in an exponential upward spiral of complexity.

Intention not only about buyers!

Laurence's picture

Doc, I like this, but think that it's as much about sellers as about buyers. It's really about them finding each other more easily without the need to spend hours manually scouring the web - just by declaring their intention once.

I see people publishing/broadcasting "haves" and "wants" (in this case what they "want" to buy and/or "have" to sell - but could be broader) and an engine doing all the scouring, matching, broadcasting and response collecting. So you would get 2 types of result: matches and spontaneous responses from competing buyers or sellers (as in your hire car example.)

The matching could be a bit messy now. For this to work perfectly a standardised format would be needed to enter "haves" and "wants".

I agree with "intention to buy" becoming a bigger thing - but as others have pointed out, people often don't know exactly what they want.

But if you join "intention to buy" with "intention to sell" and you combine matches with spontaneous competing responses from bidders then we're looking at something a lot more like an economy... What do you reckon?

Finding buyers?

Romar's picture

Yes, manufacturers often do this when consumers inquire about a product. Rather than selling products/services directly, they "shop-out" the lead to their network of resellers (i.e. Retailers, or VARs) in various ways.

Sometimes a vendor will pay for leads, or they'll bid for a specific job (i.e. to fulfill a specific volume of work), or compete for leads (i.e. the faster they follow-up on leads or the better their lead-fulfillment, the more leads they receive. More leads = more commissions), or they are given leads as a perk/reward, or they simply get all leads within their territory. In some cases, the vendor is expected to follow-up and meet certain standards or they'll be penalized.

All of those, it seems, are examples of an INTENTION economy where the shopper somehow announces or reveals their intention -- intentionally or not! -- in one of various ways: they made a phone call to customer service, answered an ad, visited a website, attended a trade show, purchased a home, etc.


Doc Searls's picture

Well put.

What I tried to do here was isolate out all the power asymmetries and marketing foreplay that attract far too much of our attention — and focus on improving the way actual supply meets actual demand in a networked marketpplace.

Seems to me we can do that. Not sure how, but I think we can.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Supply AND Demand <> Efficiency

Romar's picture

<<...focus on improving the way actual supply meets actual demand in a networked marketpplace...>>

In some cases, helping buyers find suppliers can result in efficiencies (i.e., but not always.

When I worked in retail sales years ago, we would size-up a customer browsing in the store (greet them, offer assistance, offer to answer any questions, etc.) and watch their behavior. Sometimes they would walk-in asking for something specific, and other times they would spend much time browsing the entire store before buying. But we rarely sold them exactly what they asked for without first trying to figure out if it's truly what they want/need. If we were to sell them exactly what they asked for, in many cases they'd come back disappointed and resentful asking for their money back.

In other cases, we'd inform/educate shoppers, and then they'd source the product elsewhere just to save a buck. ('can't blame 'em!)

In both the INTENTION and ATTENTION economy, there's no substitute for knowing the customer -- knowing what will satisfy them (build loyalty), knowing why people buy A over B, where they get their mis/information, how many "exposures" it takes before people decide to buy, which combinations of media/message tend to work best, etc. In both economies, getting in front of potential buyers at precisely the time they're ready to buy is critical.

It seems to me that the INTENTION ECONOMY would streamline the matching of supply to demand only for sophisticated shoppers who 1) already know what they want, and 2) are able and willing to evaluate competitive options and 3) able come to a decision quickly. That's a big segment, for sure. But there will always be fools willing to make foolish purchases, and weasels trying to separate fools from their money :-(

Maybe I'm missing something, but doesn't EBay do this?

Anonymous's picture

Maybe I'm missing something, but it sounds like EBay already does this. People come to EBay to buy something, search for it, and if they find it, bid on it.

While I gather that your business model would allow business to bid and the consumer would select the bid, EBay does indeed do the opposite, but also works in the same manner by letting the user vote with their dollars by submitting acceptable bid ranges.

True, EBay is also a silo, but it's HUGE, or perhaps it's the cooperative of farmers gathering all their silos together.

Also, there are those mortgage places like Lending Tree where banks and like "compete" for your business. It's limited to 4 options, but the idea sounds like what you're talking about.

Sounds like a decent extension of RSS would be to allow users to "push" buy requests and business could subscribe to these requests and respond with their offerings.

I don't know. It sounds like EBay does this already to a large extent in fulfilling the intentional econonmy. I also think that there is room for both methods of, though attention is admittedly more wasteful and expensive than intention.

support economy

_Mark's picture

I fully agree with your line of thinking. If you are interested in a good book on this topic, you should definitely read The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism by Zuboff and Maxmin. See:

They point to a deeper crisis in modern capitalism that has its roots in a changed sense of self in Western society. With the need for biological survival largely met in most parts of the Western world, people are starting to look to at their own inner world. Today people seek psychological self-determination and deep support in their complex and multifaceted lives. Companies and institutions with their dominant enterprise logic of managerial capitalism that was invented for a different world and a different time cannot grasp these complex individuals. They are outside their mental prison. Unable to see the problem, let alone try to solve it, companies and institutions put more effort in advertising in the hope it "reconnects" the business with the customer.

Attention Still Trumps Intention

John Hagel's picture

Doc - You make some great points. We need to shift our perspective from sellers finding buyers to buyers finding sellers and "independent" identity is key to enabling this shift. But Attention captures the fundamental shifts going on much better than Intention. It is the relative scarcity of Attention that is driving the shift in power from sellers to buyers. It also highlights a much broader set of challenges and opportunities from a customer perspective as customers seek to increase their Return on Attention. I have posted more thoughts on this at my own blog Edge Perspectives

Buying not necessarily intentional

Peter Childs's picture

If the need is clearly defined and can be filled by any one of a number of identical services the intention economy is the way to go.

Unfortunately many needs are not clearly defined, pressing or solvable with identical interchangeable services. Without pressing need or clear definition there’s opportunity to delay purchase, select alternatives etc and no ability to signal intention because it isn’t known. This is the land of advertising – and it exists because the internal world of decision is also terribly inefficient.

A need doesn’t manifest it’s self in a single instance. It grows over time, morphing and changing as secondary needs are added to overcome internal resistance, better judgment etc. We also buy on impulse – without any clear need.

There are, in truth, very few services that are truly interchangeable – and because of that businesses spend on advertising because without a communicated and understood difference the only difference may be price. Since the underlying product is the result of numerous decisions and trade offs the company owes it to the consumer to share the advantage of those decisions with the consumer.

Nice thoughts

Silent B.'s picture

Nice thoughts, but you weren't the first to think of it!
Did a google search and found his:

Eventful Demand

Francois's picture

Excellent analysis. Thanks for publishing so quickly, this will be useful for my ETECH trip report!

We've seen a good example of an Intention based service here at ETECH. It's called "Eventful Demand" and can be found here:

Otavo - The Intention Engine

Amanuel's picture

Doc, You may be interested to know that we believe strongly on the intentional web. We have introduced Otavo, The intention engine, currently in private beta. I would be delighted to have you join.


Intentional Communities

Hanan Cohen's picture

The first thing that came to my mind by reading about "intention" is the concept of Intentional Communities.

IC's are groups of people living together that what gathers them is their intentions.

Maybe it's an unrelated concept, but maybe there's something to probe there regarding the concept of Intention.

i also am satasfied

mathans's picture

i also am satisfied and totally agree with you.Financial Logo

Upside-down buyers' guide:

Anonymous's picture

Upside-down buyers' guide: active shopping for lazy people, via RSS:


igby's picture

Funny you mentioned Orbitz in this context. Isn't Priceline based around the idea of an intentional economy - you say where and when you want to fly, how much you are willing to pay and the airlines make best offer to you.