This morning, I was thinking about people who read this blog and what I offer them that keeps them coming back. That led me into what I like to think of as the "real" attention economy--the one that's already monetized.
Over the past few years, blogging has really taken off. A few days ago Doc Searls was pondering that he used to be in the Technorati Top 100 and now he's not. Why? There's all kinds of other stuff people are blogging about: "celebrities, politics, sex and other topics that float atop the polular mainstream media charts." I'm at 3000 and something on the Technorati list, but still I get multiple tens of thousands of page views per month. Clearly, people at the top are getting a lot more.
Where were these people before? They were spending their time doing something and likely as not, someone, somewhere was deriving ad revenue or direct revenue from their attention. Now that that attention has shifted, so has some of the money. I say "some of" because not all blogs are monetized. I doubt that there's a one-to-one correlation between the shift in attention and a shift in money.
On my bike ride this afternoon, I was thinking about Dave Winer retiring from blogging. I doubt he really wants to give up the attention and influence that blogging gives him. I'll bet he's got ideas on how to influence the tech world in some other way. It will be interesting to watch.
Overall, I think the shift in attention is good. When I was at Excite, we could "drive" 5000 sign-ups a day for services we put on the home page. In that world, the world that Yahoo!, CNN, and a few other highly monetized, high-traffic sites live in, a few people control how the attention is directed and they're clearly directing it with the purpose of filling their coffers. Sometimes, as Jon points out, they lose sight of why people visit their sites. The rise of the blog world has distributed part of that decision among thousands of blogs and that can only be good.