5 min read

3 Ways To Win The Attention Economy

Holly Shuffett
Holly Shuffett
Updated on
August 2, 2023
Ad Tech

With attention spans shrinking, knowing how and which content audiences choose to interact with is more valuable than ever. Understanding the attention economy is essential for both publishers and advertisers to gain more insight and deliver a relevant, positive user experience. 

Let’s break down what the attention economy is, how it affects users and publishers in 2023, and the best ways to game the increasingly competitive digital landscape. 

What is the “attention economy”? 

The term “attention economy” was first coined by psychologist and economist Herbert A. Simon in the late 1960s. At the time, Simon was primarily noting the detriment of multitasking, but his observations on the attention economy also addressed an overarching issue of information overload -- something which has only grown increasingly relevant.

"A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention." - Herbert A. Simon

In 2023, the average American is exposed to as many as 4,000 - 10,000 ads daily, so it's no surprise that attention is a hotter commodity than ever. Already, many of the metrics marketers use to measure success are gauging attention: views, time spent on page, and session duration to name a few. It only makes sense that the way we advertise should shift, too. 

While there’s an abundance of changes that publishers can make to stay on top of the attention economy, in this article we’re only touching on three impactful ideas: 

  • How publishers can change up the way their ads are served with contextual targeting.
  • How publishers can change what their ads look like with native advertising.
  • What publishers should prioritize speed to enhance user experience

Tip #1: Contextual targeting is key

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, three-in-ten Americans between 18- and 49-years of age report being online “constantly.” This presents a double-edged sword for publishers. 

On the one hand, more people spending more time online presents more opportunities for businesses to expand their reach and drive revenue. On the other hand, how do you advertise to an audience of millions who are constantly inundated by thousands of ads? 

For some businesses, the easy answer has been merely creating something eye-catching, leading to annoying pop-ups and flashy banners. However, for publishers interested in growing advertiser relationships, delivering a positive user experience, and scaling their business, the answer should be contextual targeting

Contextual targeting is when publishers display ads based on the ad slot’s surrounding content. Since contextual targeting doesn’t rely on personal information, it’s a key way for publishers to uphold user privacy while still monetizing their site and app. 

Contextual targeting doesn’t just present a strategy for splicing broad audiences into more insightful niches: it provides users with relevant, usable content and an overall improved ad experience.

A 2022 report by Nielson and Seedtag revealed the following:

  • When compared with traditional demographic targeting, “contextual advertising boosts consumer interest by as much as 32%.” 
  • When compared with traditional demographic targeting, 21% of users felt more informed by contextual ads.
  • Contextual advertising yields a consistently low irritation rate among users. 
  • 72% of users preferred ads targeted in a contextual environment.
  • Users were 85% more open to future advertising after exposure to contextually-relevant ads than when no targeting was deployed.

Users know that their attention is valuable and they don’t want their time wasted on content that isn’t a value add. Contextual targeting enhances rather than detracts from the user experience.

Tip #2: Advertise outside of the box

Pop-up ads have the right idea, but poor execution. Creating an eye-catching, compelling ad is good, given that it enhances the user experience rather than detracts from it. Native ads are one way that publishers and advertisers can deliver users captivating ad content in a refreshing, new way. 

IAB standard ad specs
IAB standard ad specs

Standardized display ads have long been the go-to for publishers and advertisers alike. Powered by client-side ad tags, these ads can be slow, blocky, and creatively stifling. 

Native ads, however, both look and feel more engaging since they can offer a more tailored and interactive user experience. By definition, native advertising seamlessly blends into surrounding content, like a social feed, homepage, search results, and more. 

Even more reasons to optimize native advertising include value that goes beyond aesthetics, including: 

Here are our honorable mentions for Kevel-powered native ads:

WeTransfer ad example
WeTransfer native ad example

Imgur ad example
Imgur native ad example
atom ad example
Atom Tickets native ad example

Tip #3: Prioritize speed

Attention spans are shrinking and choice fatigue is plaguing users online. This is why speed is key to successfully operating within the attention economy. The first five seconds of page-load time have the highest impact on conversion rates. For 82% of users, slow page speeds impact willingness to buy from a brand. 

If you’re serious about prioritizing the speed of your platform, making the switch to server-side ads is a good start. Not only does server-side support the aforementioned native ad units, but a recent Kevel client check revealed 40x faster GAM fetch times with a server-side API request than with client-side ad tags. 

Making the shift to a server-side ad strategy also gives publishers the opportunity to decrease their dependence on third-party ad tags. With Apple, Google, and Mozilla having all announced plans to dissolve third-party cookie use in the coming months, it’s not a stretch to say that now’s the time to futureproof your ad strategy with server-side ad serving. 

To learn more about the benefits of server-side versus client-side ads, check out our eBook here

Conclusion: Gaining attention takes work but is a worthwhile investment 

Our three ways to hack the attention economy -- optimizing contextual targeting, integrating with native ads, and improving site speed with server-side ads -- are all strategies which will take time and teamwork upfront. 

While solutions like Kevel’s APIs can help publishers launch their ad platforms, the passion to put the user experience first has to come from brands themselves. But by embracing customer-first advertising strategies, not only can publishers position themselves to better capture user attention, but more importantly, trust and respect. 

Kevel helps publishers build and scale their dream ad tech stack. Talk to us today.

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