Truth Is Just Perception

Attention In The Age Of Generative Artificial Intelligence

In the era of the attention economy boosted by generative artificial intelligence, attention remains finite while content becomes ever more infinite. Only one strategy can resolve this contradiction.

“Content Is King,” the maxim of communications and marketing over the past two decades, has regularly been supplemented in various ways to determine who is the queen of this odd couple: Context, conversation, distribution, engagement, content marketing, and relevance have all been proposed.

In fact, those elements all contribute to the same objective: To capture and retain stakeholders’ attention on the content you wish to present to them. Hence, attention is the real queen. Throughout history, captive target audiences have been rare. Before the digital revolution in corporations1 and today in dictatorships, audiences can be forced to consume content due to a lack of choice. Elsewhere, information overload is synonymous with an excess of alternatives, reminiscent of the first two lines of U2’s song dedicated to New York: “In New York freedom looks like / Too many choices.

Furthermore, the freedom of some (the audiences) leads to the alienation of others (the brands): They feel compelled to produce more and more content pieces to stay afloat in the ocean of messages their stakeholders face. This problem will only worsen with the generalization of generative artificial intelligence. As I’ve become accustomed to saying, if you liked UGC2, you will love generative AI. It is estimated that, by 2025, 90% of online content could be produced by artificial intelligences. Emerging in this context will be an even more titanic challenge than it is today.

As it happens, brands’ strategies in this respect are already misguided: They prioritize quantity over quality in their content production.

This approach, in my view, can be explained by three factors:

  • Companies measure their effectiveness in (almost) all areas in terms of volume: More is always better. This is also true for content production.
  • Communications and/or marketing departments are urged by their business partners to produce more and more content to represent their various activities, without considering the interest and attention capacity of their target audiences. Internal communications is usually the biggest victim of this clientelism.
  • This quantitative approach is adopted in good faith by some communications and/or marketing organizations.

Extensive research has shown that brands already achieve 90% of their interactions with their stakeholders from only 5% of their content. In other words, 19 out of 20 pieces of content you produce generate little or no engagement. At best, they leave your audiences indifferent; at worst, it alienates them from your brand.

Naturally, this phenomenon will greatly worsen with the generalization of generative artificial intelligence. Organizations will then have to choose between two strategies: A race to the bottom, which will consist of producing more and more content pieces to supposedly maintain the same visibility with their target audiences, or a race to the top, which will rely on a drastic reduction in the quantity of content produced to focus on high-quality content (e.g. audience targeting, relevance and creativity of content, interactivity, gamification, personalization, and immersiveness of approaches). It’s clear to me that only this second option is viable. But it will require such cultural and managerial revolutions that the brands that implement it will be in the minority.

Deion Sanders with Peggy Coppom (98), the greatest fan of the University of Colorado’s team, who has been attending its games since 1940 – (CC) David Zalubowski-Associated Press

In this regard, I would like to tell you a story that, I hope, will help you benchmark the quality requirement of your content on a daily basis. This story is about Deion Sanders, one of the greatest American football players of his generation (and several others), who is also the only man to have participated in the Super Bowl and World Series, an unthinkable feat for any normally constituted being. Besides his extraordinary athletic talent, Deion Sanders has always stood out for his charisma and his ability to capture and retain the attention of his contemporaries. Today, as the coach of the University of Colorado Boulder’s football team, he has just been named Sports Personality of the Year for those same qualities by Sports Illustrated, which writes about him: “In less than a year, Coach Prime has not only transformed a moribund Colorado football program. He’s also breathed fresh life into the campus and transformed a community.

Why talk about Deion Sanders? Because in an article Bloomberg dedicated to him two and a half months ago, a quote caught my eye: “He’s a scroll stopper.” We know that Internet users scroll through an equivalent of 300 feet of content on their mobile screens every day. Therefore, the risk for each piece of content produced by a brand is to add a few centimeters to this scrolling, with no other consequence than the indifference of its target audiences… unless the brand that designed it has set itself the goal that each of its content pieces be a “scroll stopper.” Otherwise, it is pointless to dedicate the necessary resources to its production. This is the magnitude of the challenge awaiting all communicators and marketers in the coming years.

Philosopher Simone Weil wrote that “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” It is an observation that every communicator and marketer should keep in mind when preparing to issue new content to their stakeholders. In the era of the attention economy boosted by generative artificial intelligence, as attention remains finite and content ever more infinite, creating new content pieces should be carried out with even more care, in respect of what I propose to henceforth call the “Deion Sanders theorem”: If you are not certain of producing content capable of captivating your target audiences, spare yourself and, especially, spare them the trouble.

1 The fact that employees were a captive audience of internal communications before the digital revolution, and are no longer today, is a truism that many leaders have not yet integrated into their management and internal communications practices: In far too many companies, the challenges of internal content activation are ignored.

2 User-generated content (UGC), which, especially on social media, has contributed to the considerable increase in the amount of content available, since every Internet user, and not just organizations, can express themselves publicly.

3 His nickname dating back to his playing career.

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