The Attention Economy: Why News Publishers Are Losing

Cosmin Ene
4 min readFeb 26, 2023

In today’s fast-paced digital world, capturing the attention of consumers has become a high-stakes battle for publishers and creators. With countless sources of information vying for our attention, it’s no wonder that traditional news publishers are struggling to keep up. In fact, recent studies show that only a meager 4 minutes of the average consumer’s day is spent reading news directly on publishers’ websites, compared to the staggering 95 minutes spent on TikTok.

While news consumption remains an important part of our daily lives, the reality is that it’s just not capturing our attention like other forms of media. Despite the fact that the majority of consumers are likely consuming news products every day, they’re simply not spending enough time on digital news to make it a priority. In 2022, US consumers spent an average of 494 minutes per day consuming digital media, but news only accounted for a tiny fraction of that time. This discrepancy highlights a perception bias among publishers who may assume they have more attention and importance in people’s lives than they really do.

So, why are news publishers struggling to capture our attention? One possible explanation is subscription fatigue, which has become a hot topic in the industry. A staggering 73% of US consumers don’t have a single subscription to any news publication, a worrying trend that may be linked to the high cost of subscriptions and the abundance of free news sources online.

But there may be other factors at play as well. In an era of information overload, consumers are increasingly selective about the content they choose to consume, and news publishers may simply be failing to offer content that captures modern audiences’s attention for more than a few minutes. Additionally, the rise of social media platforms has changed the way we consume news, with many users turning to social networks for their daily dose of information.

Even I, as an industry professional with an affinity for the business, don’t read the news all through the day. I have a business to run and I want to spend time on things that are important to me, so I tend to consume the news only before I go to sleep. It doesn’t mean I am not staying up to date. I just know that if a significant story comes in, I’ll see alerts on my social media feeds, or that someone I know will text, email or otherwise flag the story for my attention. I’m just not proactively going to news sites throughout the day just to see what’s happening. And I expect there are many others in the same boat as me.

Whatever the cause, it’s clear that news publishers need to adapt to the changing media landscape if they want to survive. In this series of articles, we are exploring the root causes of this issue and provide solutions and concepts for how the media can change the status quo and win back the attention of consumers. From innovative content strategies to new business models, we’ll delve into the latest trends and ideas that are shaping the future of media. So, stay tuned for the next installment and join us on this exciting journey of discovery.

About Cosmin

Cosmin Ene has a wide spectrum of experience in monetization for content providers. For the last 8+ years he has worked with a broad swathe of publishers — from bloggers to local media to national and international publications — including the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, The Boston Globe, and Der Spiegel. Cosmin also has profound experience generating revenues from contributions for content creators and artists, having worked together with industry luminaries like Nick Knight. Recognizing that people’s digital content consumption habits have fundamentally transformed traditional business models, he advises publishers and content providers on how best to embrace user-centricity in order to remain profitable and to succeed in the 21st century.

--

--

Cosmin Ene

Founder/CEO Supertab. All about giving users choice and making it easy for them to buy content.