Self Help

The Attention Merchants - Tim Wu

Author Photo

Matheus Puppe

· 125 min read

• The “attention merchants” refer to an industry devoted to capturing people’s attention and selling it to advertisers and others for commercial gain. This industry barely existed a century ago but has grown enormously since then.

• The attention industry has struck a “grand bargain” with society in which it provides information, entertainment, and new technologies in exchange for people’s attention and time. While each individual bargain seems beneficial, the total effect is a society in which nearly every aspect of life is mediated and commercialized.

• The attention industry traces its origins to 19th-century newspapers supported entirely by ads and the rise of eye-catching commercial art. But its potential was fully realized in the early 20th century with the discovery of the power of mass attention, first by British war propagandists and then by industry.

• The attention industry initially consisted of small, independent actors but has become a major part of the economy. Existing industries have long relied on attention to drive sales, and new media like radio attained commercial viability by selling the attention they captured.

• Attention is now widely seen as a commodity, like agricultural goods or natural resources, that can be harvested and sold. The attention industry mints a new form of currency by capturing people’s attention and reselling it.

• Public schools are increasingly seen as having an “asset” in students’ captive attention, which some districts are selling access to in order to generate revenue, often through advertising aimed at influencing children. This shows how the commercialization of attention has become accepted and spread into new areas of life.

• The total effect of the attention industry is a society in which nearly all aspects of life, from home to school to social interaction, are mediated for commercial purposes as never before. While this system provides benefits, its influence on how people live is complex and ambiguous.

That covers the essence of the introduction and the themes around which the book is built. Please let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.

Here are the main points from the summary:

  • In the 1830s, most newspapers were aimed at elite audiences and were expensive, around 6 cents. Benjamin Day wanted to start a newspaper aimed at a much larger readership.

  • Day’s idea was to sell his newspaper for a penny, a price most people could afford, even though it meant he would be selling at a loss. He planned to make up the losses through advertising revenue. Day realized that while readers thought of themselves as his customers, they were actually his product.

  • Newspapers had run some advertising before, but Day wanted to sell readers’ attention to advertisers on a much larger scale. To do this, he needed a huge number of readers, which he gained by publishing sensational stories that people couldn’t look away from.

  • Day’s newspaper, the New York Sun, debuted in 1833. He filled the first issue with ads to try and attract advertisers. He stated that the paper’s goal was to provide news to everyone at an affordable price while also offering a platform for advertising.

  • The first headline in the first issue was about a “melancholy suicide” - a sensational story aimed at gaining readers. Day wrote that the subject was a young man of “engaging manners and amiable disposition,” demonstrating Day’s willingness to manipulate readers’ emotions to gain their attention.

  • In summary, Benjamin Day pioneered a new business model for newspapers that relied on amassing a huge readership and then reselling that attention to advertisers. This allowed him to sell his newspaper for a penny, making it hugely popular. Day’s key insight was that while readers may have seen themselves as his customers, they were actually his product.

The New York Sun was founded in 1833 by Benjamin Day as a penny newspaper. It found success by focusing on lurid crime stories, human interest pieces, and sensational news. The paper initially struggled but became profitable once Day realized he could rely on advertising revenue rather than subscription fees.

The Sun’s success showed that newspapers did not need political patrons or high prices to thrive. It helped create an attentive public engaged with daily news. However, the Sun’s model was soon copied by competitors like The Morning Herald, founded by James Gordon Bennett.

To gain attention, Bennett frequently insulted rival papers and public figures. His paper also focused on sensational stories of crime and death. Competition between the Sun and The Herald pushed both to increasingly outrageous and factually questionable stories.

The dynamic between these papers shows how the drive for attention and advertising revenue can incentivize a “race to the bottom.” The Sun ultimately published a fabricated story of astronomical discoveries as a way to gain attention, showing little regard for factual accuracy.

The key details are:

  1. The Sun succeeded by relying on advertising over subscription fees and focusing on sensational news. This helped create an attentive public sphere.

  2. The Sun’s model was copied by competitors like The Morning Herald, founded by James Gordon Bennett.

  3. Competition between these penny papers drove a “race to the bottom” as they published increasingly sensational and factually questionable stories to gain attention and revenue.

  4. The Sun ultimately published a fabricated astronomical discovery story, showing how the drive for attention could outweigh journalistic ethics.

  5. This dynamic highlighted a dilemma for newspapers and media reliant on attention: how far they would go to gain and keep people’s attention. Limits were rarely self-imposed.

  • In 1835, the New York Sun published a series of articles claiming that scientists had discovered life on the moon, including winged creatures called Vespertilio-homo, or man-bats, by using a powerful telescope. Though untrue, the stories were a sensation and helped establish the business model of selling attention and advertising.

  • In the 1860s, Jules Chéret invented a new style of colorful lithographic posters in Paris that were much larger, more vibrant, and attention-grabbing than previous posters. These “chromolithographs” featured brightly colored images, often of women, that gave viewers an impression of motion and energy. They were a conceptual and technological innovation that allowed for mass production and distribution of visual advertising.

  • Neuroscientists have found that human brains have an immense capacity to filter out and ignore information in order to avoid overload. We are always paying attention to something, and attention can be thought of as a limited resource or currency that is constantly being spent. Attention merchants try to attract our attention away from what it’s currently focused on.

  • Chéret’s posters were successful at grabbing attention because they used bright colors, images of women, and a sense of motion that was hard to ignore. They caught viewers’ attention during moments when their minds might wander or they had nothing else to focus on. These traits trigger reflexive responses in our brains that cause us to pay attention, whether consciously or not. Motion, color, animals, sex, babies, and novelty are some of the most effective ways to trigger these responses.

  • In summary, new technologies and psychological insights allowed 19th-century pioneers like Benjamin Day and Jules Chéret to build business models around capturing and selling human attention in novel ways. Their work established principles and practices that have endured and spread in the modern attention economy.

Claude C. Hopkins was an advertising pioneer in the early 20th century. Though outwardly unassuming, he revolutionized the business of capturing and utilizing human attention. Hopkins was born in 1866 to a strict evangelical family. His father abandoned the family when Hopkins was 10, forcing him to work various jobs to support his family. At 17, Hopkins became a religious instructor in line with his family’s tradition.

However, Hopkins eventually lost his faith and quit the ministry. He left home to seek new opportunities, motivated primarily by a love of hard work. Hopkins got his start as a “scheme man,” writing early advertisements. He showed talent with an ad picturing Santa Claus using a Bissell carpet sweeper as a gift. Hopkins’ early experience as a preacher shaped his eventual mastery of capturing attention and creating demand.

Before the 19th century, human attention was largely untapped commercially and politically. Advertising as we now know it was limited. However, religion provided experience cultivating and directing collective attention and emotion. As religion declined, advertising adopted similar techniques, with Hopkins applying lessons from his time as a preacher.

Hopkins pioneered psychological advertising, studying how to capture attention and influence behavior. He emphasized benefits and emotions over product attributes. His unorthodox methods were controversial but hugely successful. Hopkins lifted products like Pepsodent toothpaste and Quaker Oats from obscurity to market dominance. However, his relentless pursuit of growth and profits contributed to consumer manipulation and over-consumption.

In summary, Claude C. Hopkins applied the techniques of an evangelical preacher to the new field of advertising. He was instrumental in developing psychological methods to harvest attention and drive demand. Hopkins’ innovative tactics revolutionized advertising but also exacerbated its excesses and unintended societal effects. His life story provides insight into how the skills of religion were adapted for commercial use as religious influence declined.

  • Commercial advertising and signs have a long history, dating back to ancient Greece, Rome, and China. However, industrialized capture of attention did not emerge until much later. For most of history, merchants relied on reputation and word-of-mouth. Most governments also did not seek to influence public opinion.

  • The major institution that sought to capture attention for centuries was organized religion, especially Christianity and monotheistic faiths. They aimed to monopolize believers’ attention through moral teachings, daily rituals, and strict rules. For example, early Christians aspired to constant prayer and focus on God. Methodism founder John Wesley prescribed thinking of God throughout the day.

  • By the late 19th century, “patent medicines” emerged and revolutionized advertising by aggressively capturing public attention through startling images and promises of cures and wishes fulfilled. Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Liniment was one example. These ads featured stylized images of merchants and exotic themes. They brazenly promised to cure all ailments, or even provide immortality.

  • Advertisers like Claude Hopkins, who promoted Dr. Shoop’s Restorative, learned from patent medicines. Hopkins anticipated potential customers’ doubts from past failed cures and promised Dr. Shoop had discovered “the way” to solve their problems after a lifetime of work.

  • In summary, while commercial advertising has ancient roots, the organized capture of attention largely began in the 19th century with patent medicines. They established many techniques still used today, including branding, wish fulfillment, and overcoming skepticism. As religion declined, commerce and governments adapted to fill the void and gain access to public attention.

  • Dr. Shoop has successfully treated over 100,000 patients and has seen his treatment cure thousands of cases where other treatments failed. He has never known his remedy to fail in any disease described in his book.

  • Patent medicine advertisers employed several tricks, including emphasizing “secret” or exotic ingredients, and making extravagant claims about efficacy. These techniques are still commonly used today in product marketing.

  • Claude Hopkins was a pioneering advertising agent who helped popularize Dr. Shoop’s and Liquozone through large-scale direct mail campaigns sending out hundreds of thousands of pamphlets. He offered free samples to draw people in.

  • By 1905, patent medicines had become a huge industry, taking in $45-90 million annually (equivalent to $1.3-2.9 billion today). However, there was little regulation or journalistic scrutiny of the industry.

  • Samuel Hopkins Adams, a journalist, investigated the patent medicine industry and exposed its fraudulence in a 1905 Collier’s article, “The Great American Fraud.” His investigation found many patent medicines contained large amounts of alcohol, opiates, and narcotics, and little of their supposed medicinal ingredients.

  • Adams’ article specifically called out Liquozone as a “fraud” that owed its success to “lax” regulation and public gullibility. Adams said “liquid oxygen” doesn’t exist as claimed, and called its advertising “pseudoscientific charlatanry.” The article helped spur new laws regulating the industry.

  • In summary, early direct-marketing techniques allowed patent medicines with little real medicinal value to become hugely profitable. Muckraking journalism helped expose the industry and push for reforms.

  • Lord Herbert Kitchener was a famous British military leader who was summoned back from Egypt to help with Britain’s war effort in World War 1.

  • Britain was unprepared for a large-scale war, with only a small professional army. Germany, meanwhile, had a huge, undefeated army that had just invaded Belgium.

  • Kitchener believed Britain needed to raise an army of at least 1 million men to have a chance in the war. But Britain did not have conscription at the time and traditionally did not do large propaganda campaigns aimed at citizens.

  • Kitchener launched Britain’s first state-run propaganda campaign to recruit soldiers. This was unprecedented for a government at the time and went against the tradition of rulers avoiding public attention and depending on an aura of inaccessibility.

  • The campaign used posters and speeches to appeal to British patriotism and duty and was very successful, recruiting over 2.5 million men.

  • The campaign helped show governments the power of propaganda and mass persuasion. It set the stage for modern state propaganda efforts and shaped public expectations of government publicity and openness.

  • The leader of the campaign, Charles Masterman, was a politician and journalist. He helped pioneer wartime propaganda techniques like simple but dramatic language, visuals, and calls for patriotic action.

  • The campaign benefited from widespread public support for the war, fear of Germany, and a desire to support soldiers. But it likely also increased enthusiasm for and prolonged the war.

  • The British government continued and expanded its propaganda efforts as the war went on. By the end, almost every aspect of the economy and society was aimed at the war effort.

That covers the key highlights and main takeaways from the summary. Please let me know if you would like me to explain or expand on any part of the summary.

  • Propaganda originally referred to spreading religious faith but took on new meaning with government use during WWI.

  • The British government, led by Lord Kitchener, pioneered the first modern propaganda campaign to recruit soldiers. They used posters, rallies, films, and messaging to stir patriotism and fear of Germany. The campaign was very successful, leading to over 750,000 recruits in two months. But as casualties mounted, they had to introduce conscription.

  • The British approach inspired other governments like Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and the U.S. The U.S. formed the Committee on Public Information, led by George Creel, to spread pro-war messages. Creel proposed an alternative to press censorship by using advertising techniques to generate enthusiasm for the war.

  • Propaganda had to be total, using all available media, to succeed. The British campaign opened “Pandora’s box” in unleashing propaganda as a weapon. Governments learned they could harness attention and convert it into action, like military service.

  • Lord Kitchener died before the end of the war but helped pioneer propaganda techniques that were widely copied. The U.S. in particular modeled its campaign on the British version but made it even bigger.

  • George Creel led the U.S. Committee on Public Information to spread propaganda and censor news. He aimed to arouse passion for the war and counter skepticism. The campaign used many of the same techniques as the British like posters, film, speeches, and rallies. It reached tens of millions of Americans, though was controversial.

That covers the key highlights and events in the development and use of wartime propaganda by the British and Americans. Let me know if you would like me to explain anything in the summary in more detail.

  • George Creel was appointed by President Wilson to head the Committee on Public Information, America’s first government propaganda agency.

  • Creel eagerly embraced his role as a propagandist and believed it was necessary to create a “war-will” and manufacture consent among Americans for entering World War 1. He aimed to “weld the people of the United States into one white-hot mass instinct with fraternity, devotion, courage, and deathless determination.”

  • The Committee conducted a massive propaganda campaign, using every available medium to spread pro-war messages, including posters, pamphlets, speeches, films, and publicity. In its first year, the committee grew enormously and reached hundreds of millions of Americans.

  • The propaganda campaign was very successful and helped shift public opinion in favor of the war. Over 700,000 Americans volunteered for military service. The campaign also helped suppress anti-war dissent by accusing critics of treason. Socialist leader Eugene Debs was imprisoned for an anti-war speech.

  • The success of the propaganda campaigns in Britain and America left a lasting legacy and showed what was possible in shaping public opinion. Some were alarmed by the power of propaganda, while others were inspired by it. Walter Lippmann, though initially supporting the war, became cynical after seeing how easily the Creel Committee whipped up fanatical support. He feared “the manufacture of consent” could become a threat to democracy.

The key takeaway is that World War 1 marked the first large-scale use of propaganda by governments to manufacture consent and support for the war. The success of these campaigns demonstrated the power of propaganda to rapidly shift public opinion and attitudes.

The key events and ideas in this passage are:

  1. In the aftermath of World War I, advertising spending grew dramatically as businesses gained confidence in its power and effectiveness. By 1930, advertising spending had increased tenfold. This growth established advertising as an international industry.

  2. A 1923 book called Scientific Advertising proclaimed that advertising had become a science, with fixed principles that allowed advertisers to accurately determine the most effective strategies. Nothing was left to chance.

  3. The author of Scientific Advertising was Claude C. Hopkins, a former patent medicine salesman who had become a leading copywriter. He applied the techniques of patent medicine advertising to mainstream products with great success, helping to raise the role and status of copywriters.

  4. Hopkins’s success showed that the emotive language and fantastical claims of patent medicine advertising could work for a much wider range of ordinary consumer goods than had been realized. This revelation helped transform the advertising industry.

  5. The passage suggests that World War I helped redeem advertising in the public eye by demonstrating its potential for stirring public sentiment and influencing attitudes. After the war, businesses eagerly embraced advertising’s powers of persuasion.

  6. The New Republic described the typical advertising man of the time as young, flashy, and self-assured. But Hopkins did not fit this image. Despite his past as a patent medicine man, he had become a top adman and leading copywriter.

The key idea is that World War I and the success of admen like Hopkins marked a turning point, establishing mass advertising as a science of persuasion that could move markets and transform businesses. Advertising gained prestige and power as a tool for creating demand and growth. The emotive, fantastical style of patent medicine ads was adapted to sell a broad range of ordinary goods. Admen emerged as influential forces behind the spread of new products and fashions.

  • Claude Hopkins was a pioneering advertising executive in the early 20th century. Though eccentric in appearance, he was very influential in shaping modern advertising techniques.

  • Advertising firms grew rapidly in size and sophistication in the 1920s. They functioned as “private laboratories of attention capture and demand generation.” They bought access to print media audiences and determined how to most effectively capture their attention.

  • The new advertising techniques of the 1920s were known as “scientific advertising.” This included:

  1. “Demand engineering” - creating desire for new products by portraying them as solutions to problems, real or invented. This built on the techniques of patent medicine ads.

  2. Branding - creating loyalty to a particular brand by cultivating the impression it was unique or superior.

  3. Targeting female consumers - acknowledging and appealing to women as an important consumer base.

  • “Demand engineering” techniques included portraying products as solutions to anxieties and insecurities. Listerine created fears about “halitosis” (bad breath) to sell mouthwash. Pepsodent portrayed tooth decay and “film” as threats to appeal to anxieties about aging and health. These campaigns were very successful.

  • The influence of Freud’s theories of the unconscious mind on advertising techniques of this era is often overstated. While Freud’s ideas were popular, the historical evidence suggests leading advertisers actually paid more attention to behavioralist psychology.

  • In summary, advertising grew rapidly as a profession and industry in the 1920s. Firms developed sophisticated techniques for manipulating consumer desires and anxieties to drive demand for new products. The most prominent of these was “demand engineering” - portraying products as solutions to problems, real or imagined. These new techniques helped fuel the rise of consumer culture in the U.S. and other Western nations.

  • Psychology emerged as an application of science to understand and control human behavior. Early psychologists like John B. Watson believed that humans can be conditioned to respond in predictable ways, just like animals.

  • Watson conducted experiments demonstrating how fears and behaviors can be learned through conditioning. His most famous experiment induced a fear of rats in an infant known as “Little Albert.”

  • Watson applied his theories as an executive at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. He believed stimuli could be used to provoke emotional and conditioned responses in consumers.

  • A second development in advertising was the rise of branding. Brands were engineered to create reputations and loyal followings. Advertisers like Theodore MacManus built iconic brands like Cadillac by cultivating prestige and “dependability.”

  • MacManus used a “suggestive” style that implied the virtues and honesty of a product and brand. Though his approach was softer than the “reason-why” style of Claude Hopkins, it was still a means of persuasion and propaganda.

  • A third development was targeting female consumers. Advertisers realized that women made most household purchasing decisions, so they tried to understand and appeal to women.

  • Early attempts were clumsy, relying on stereotypes of women as emotional and suggestible. But campaigns like Helen Lansdowne’s Woodbury’s soap ads were more insightful. They implied the radiance and charm that could come from using their product.

  • In summary, three major trends in advertising emerged: applying psychology to influence consumers, buildingbrands through associating them with lifestyle aspirations, and targeting female consumers based on a deeper understanding of their desires and perspectives.

The key objective of advertisers was to create demand for new products and build the reputation of brands. They drew on developing knowledge in psychology and sociology to more effectively persuade and appeal to consumers, especially the neglected audience of women.

  • Late 19th century advertisements targeted women by appealing to their aspirations and desires. Advertisements promised women fantasy fulfillment and access to high society by using products.

  • Helen Lansdowne created innovative advertisements for Woodbury’s Facial Soap that targeted women’s desires to feel beautiful and desired. She later helped start the first Women’s Editorial Department at J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York.

  • The Women’s Editorial Department hired many women’s rights activists but used their knowledge to effectively manipulate women consumers. They created advertisements stoking women’s fears of social embarrassment or promising freedom from household chores. They also pioneered the use of celebrity endorsements to make products aspirational.

  • Though the women who worked in the Women’s Editorial Department were pioneers, their work ultimately reinforced negative stereotypes of women that many had originally fought against in the women’s movement. Their advertisements preyed on women’s insecurities and sold them illusions and unrealistic ideals of beauty and happiness through consumption.

  • The advertising industry became extremely effective at capturing attention and turning it into profit. New techniques like demand engineering and branding gave consumers ideals that were constantly out of reach, fueling a cycle of consumption.

  • The summary outlines how advertising first targeted women consumers in the late 19th century and the problematic techniques pioneered to manipulate women and stoke consumption. Though the women who worked in advertising were pioneers, the industry as a whole reinforced negative stereotypes and sold illusions. Advertising became extremely adept at capturing and exploiting attention for profit.

  • George Washington Hill inherited the American Tobacco Company from his father in 1925. He was obsessed with making Lucky Strike the leading cigarette brand in America.

  • Hill hired advertising experts Albert Lasker and Edward Bernays to help promote Lucky Strike. They used innovative and controversial tactics to increase sales.

  • Initially, Lasker promoted Lucky Strike as a remedy for sore throats by emphasizing that the cigarettes were “toasted.” This strategy was modeled after patent medicine advertising. They co-opted doctors and opera singers to endorse the health benefits of Lucky Strikes.

  • In 1929, Bernays orchestrated the “Torches of Freedom” march in which young women brazenly smoked Lucky Strikes during the Easter parade to protest taboos against women smoking in public. The event received little media attention at the time but has since become famous. The actual impact on sales and social norms is unclear.

  • Lasker also targeted women with the “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet” campaign which suggested that smoking Lucky Strikes could help women stay thin. This strategy was enormously successful and helped triple the rate of smoking among women.

  • Hill spent lavishly on advertising, increasing the budget from $400,000 in 1925 to nearly $20 million in 1931. Lucky Strike became the leading cigarette brand.

  • The advertising campaigns for Lucky Strike in the late 1920s demonstrated the power and hubris of the advertising industry. They helped normalize cigarette smoking, especially among women, through questionable health claims and manipulation of social taboos.

The key figures are George Washington Hill, Albert Lasker, and Edward Bernays. Hill’s fortune and mania for sales growth fueled the massive advertising campaigns. Lasker devised successful strategies modeled after patent medicine ads. Bernays pioneered more sophisticated public relations techniques to engineer social change and boost demand. Their controversial tactics and disregard for health concerns illustrated the excesses of advertising at the time.

  • In 1926, Stuart Chase and Frederick Schlink, who shared a contempt for the advertising industry, collaborated on a manifesto called Your Money’s Worth: A Study in the Waste of the Consumer’s Dollar.

  • They used a parable to illustrate the tension between truth and advertising. Two men discuss the merits of a famous oil brand. One says it must be good because it sells a lot and has many ads. The other tests it and finds it corrosive, so he won’t use it. The first followed the crowd, the second pursued facts. The crowd is sometimes right but often wrong; science determines which.

  • Consumers buy what ads make them want, not what they freely want. Advertisers thoroughly understand psychology and play on it. But their hyperbole and brand proliferation may overwhelm consumers. The authors hoped their book would counter that, though they knew science might not triumph.

  • Your Money’s Worth captured growing disenchantment with advertising and sparked consumer resistance. Its success owed partly to offering a “heretical” view that challenged the status quo. It argued that national advertising created artificial product differentiation, raising prices; brands weren’t inherently better. Local ads provided useful info; national ads were largely misleading.

  • The book proposed: limit ad budgets, curb unfair practices, educate consumers to buy on merit not ads. It led to a “truth in advertising” movement and laws. But the ad industry fought back, dismissing the authors as socialist and anti-business. The movement faded as the economy rebounded but shaped later consumerism.

  • Still, Your Money’s Worth marked a pivotal moment. Faith in advertising diminished; its effects were debated. It showed advertising’s social potency for good or ill. And it argued for rational, scientific consumer choice—a view that still motivates skepticism about commercial persuasion.

  • Chase and Schlink’s criticisms of advertising in Your Money’s Worth were not revolutionary in that they supported free markets and capitalism. Rather, they argued that advertising distorted markets by misleading consumers and creating demand for unnecessary products.

  • Their work was part of a broader movement against advertising in the early 20th century. Critics included economists, women’s groups, and former advertisers themselves. Many saw advertising as frivolous, deceptive and spiritually corrupting.

  • The advertising industry fought back against these criticisms, portraying critics as socialists trying to undermine capitalism. However, the industry was also damaged by the Great Depression as advertising spending declined and many firms went out of business.

  • Advertising serves an important economic function by informing consumers about available products and enabling competition. However, much advertising is aimed more at shaping demand and creating irrational brand loyalty than providing objective information. At its worst, advertising misleads and confuses consumers, undermining informed choice.

  • Branding in particular was seen as creating attachments to brands that had little to do with the actual quality or value of the products. The most effective branding convinces consumers not to make a choice at all but to stick with a particular brand out of habit and emotion.

  • In summary, while advertising and branding play an important role in facilitating markets and competition, they were frequently criticized in the early 20th century for distorting markets, deceiving consumers and cultivating frivolous demand - all of which undermined the ideal of rational, informed choice. The tensions between these two perspectives remain relevant today.

The key points here are that 1) advertising and branding enable markets but also frequently distort them, and 2) critics argued this resulted in cultivated demand, deceived consumers and threats to informed choice, while the industry portrayed itself as essential to capitalism. The summary articulates these tensions and arguments on both sides. Please let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of this summary.

  • Brand advertising aims to convert consumers to a brand by making it part of their identity. Successful brand advertising creates a cult-like following that is loyal to the brand. Examples include Apple, Hermès, and Porsche.

  • Lucky Strike cigarettes used brand advertising successfully in the 1920s and 1930s. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found their ads to be deceptive. Though the FTC’s powers were limited, there were efforts to strengthen regulation of false advertising. The “Tugwell Bill” aimed to outlaw many common advertising techniques, but it failed due to industry lobbying. Ultimately, only minor new rules were passed.

  • Advertising was initially limited to older media like newspapers, magazines, and billboards. In the 1930s, advertising was in crisis due to the Great Depression. To survive, the industry looked to new media like radio, movies, and television. These new media allowed advertising to enter people’s homes for the first time.

  • In 1928, Pepsodent toothpaste was struggling. Its new general manager, Walter Templin, needed an idea to save the company. Around the same time, radio and movies were gaining popularity. Templin realized these new media could be used to advertise to a mass audience, especially in the evening. He began sponsoring radio shows and found success. This led to the development of “prime time” - the evening hours when most people watched radio and television. Prime time allowed for entertainment programming that attracted large audiences, who were then exposed to advertising.

  • The development of prime time demonstrates how new media were harnessed to capture attention and allowed advertising to spread into more areas of life. Radio and television transformed the home into a site of commerce and advertising. Prime time programming aimed to capture attention so that ads could be delivered to a captive audience.

Here’s a summary:

• Pepsodent toothpaste was launched in 1915 but by the late 1920s was losing market share and struggling financially due to competition and the inadequacy of its product.

• Albert Templin, an advertising executive, came up with the idea to sponsor the popular radio show Amos ’n’ Andy to help promote Pepsodent. However, the idea was controversial and met with resistance. Radio at the time was seen as a medium for education and culture, not advertising. Many also doubted whether people would actually listen to a serialized radio show.

• After failed attempts to sell the idea to NBC and CBS, Templin finally convinced NBC to air Amos ’n’ Andy in exchange for over $1 million. The show was adapted slightly, with the characters moving to Harlem and a theme song added. Pepsodent’s slogan was also promoted during the show.

• When Amos ’n’ Andy first aired in August 1928, listenership and sales were low. However, Templin doubled down on his investment, and the show became a huge hit the second time around. By 1931, 40-50 million listeners were tuning in each night, a massive audience for the time.

• Amos ’n’ Andy revived Pepsodent’s fortunes and revolutionized broadcast entertainment and advertising. It demonstrated radio’s potential as an advertising medium and ability to capture public attention on a mass scale. The show’s popularity also marked a shift in attitudes toward radio as a vehicle for commercial sponsorship and pop culture.

• In summary, Albert Templin’s risky and controversial idea to sponsor Amos ’n’ Andy on radio paid off hugely, transforming Pepsodent’s business and radio itself. Though the initial reaction was skeptical, Templin’s vision and persistence resulted in massive success.

  • Amos ‘n’ Andy was an immensely popular radio show in the late 1920s and early 1930s that reached up to 40 million listeners at its peak. It demonstrated the power of radio to attract mass audiences and sell products.

  • The show’s sponsor, Pepsodent, was able to dramatically increase toothpaste sales through its advertising during the program. This showed that entertainment and advertising could be effectively merged, contradicting the previous conventional wisdom.

  • Amos ‘n’ Andy pioneered the idea of “prime time” - attracting huge audiences at the same time every day with an entertainment program. This allowed sponsors to reach millions of potential customers at once. Prime time transformed both media industries and audiences’ lives and habits.

  • Amos ‘n’ Andy demonstrated that media companies could “own” parts of the day and reach into private spaces in new ways. They proceeded to target other parts of the day, like daytime radio aimed at housewives.

  • The show appealed to audiences through suspenseful and empathetic storylines, though it also reinforced racist stereotypes. It portrayed African Americans as “lovable, quaint…ignorant and somewhat shiftless and lazy.”

  • The wild success of Amos ‘n’ Andy marked a turning point. It showed that broadcasters were in the business of selling attention, not just radio hardware. It enabled an unlikely merger of entertainment and advertising. And it kicked off an ongoing competition for attention that continues today.

  • Our experience is shaped by what we pay attention to, so prime time radio transformed audiences by structuring their attention and daily lives. Audiences’ most immediate environment is what holds their attention, for better or worse.

That covers the key highlights and main takeaways from the passage on the impact and significance of Amos ‘n’ Andy. Let me know if you would like me to explain or expand on any part of the summary.

  • William Paley unexpectedly became the head of CBS, a small radio network, when his father bought it for him in 1928. Though initially underestimated, Paley proved to be a savvy businessman.

  • Paley grew CBS by offering free sustaining programming to independent radio stations in exchange for the right to sell advertising during those programs. This allowed CBS to quickly expand its reach and become larger than NBC’s radio networks.

  • Paley understood that amassing a large audience was key to the success of radio as a commercial business. CBS marketed radio as an uniquely persuasive advertising medium that could influence audiences during moments of leisure and receptiveness.

  • Paley’s main rival was David Sarnoff, who ran NBC and its corporate owner RCA. Though Sarnoff helped establish radio broadcasting and NBC, he failed to fully grasp radio’s potential as an advertising medium. He saw radio more as a way to sell radio sets and promote high-quality programming.

  • In summary, the emergence of radio broadcasting allowed for the creation of a new mass medium and a new mass audience. Paley and CBS were able to capitalize on this by turning radio into a powerful new tool for advertising and commerce. By offering audiences en masse to advertisers, CBS helped establish the business model of commercial broadcasting that endures today.

The key themes are the rise of mass media, the accumulation of mass audiences, and the ability to monetize attention through advertising. Paley and CBS were instrumental in developing and spreading this now familiar model.

  • William Paley and David Sarnoff were major figures in the early days of radio broadcasting. Paley founded CBS, while Sarnoff ran RCA and its radio network, NBC.

  • Paley and Sarnoff came from similar immigrant backgrounds but had different personalities and strengths. Paley was charming and had a keen sense of talent and programming. Sarnoff was more focused on technology and empire building. He disliked entertainment and comedians.

  • In the early 1930s, CBS under Paley emerged as a major competitor to NBC. Paley pursued a “Tiffany Network” strategy of emphasizing quality, cultured programming to distinguish CBS and win prestige. This helped address criticisms that commercial radio had abandoned its public service mission.

  • Paley proved adept at programming a mix of highbrow and popular shows to maximize audiences and advertising revenue. CBS aired experimental dramas, classical music concerts, and avant-garde fare like Orson Welles’ radio plays. But it also featured popular comedians, soap operas, and advice shows for female listeners.

  • Paley set limits on advertising to prevent public backlash, keeping commercials to 10% of airtime and banning offensive ads. He understood the need to balance advertising’s demands with listeners’ patience.

  • In contrast, Sarnoff disliked entertainment and struggled to appreciate NBC’s role as an “attention merchant.” He saw NBC more as an industrial concern, focused on technology and gaining market power over competitors. Sarnoff failed to foresee the potential of new media like television, while Paley was more farsighted.

  • In sum, Paley’s strengths in programming, talent, and balancing commercial and public interests allowed CBS to gain on NBC. Sarnoff’s weaknesses and narrower view of broadcasting gave Paley opportunities to outmaneuver his rival.

  • Bill Paley hired Edward Bernays, a public relations pioneer, to help promote CBS. Bernays recommended that Paley focus on building CBS’s reputation for news coverage. Although news was not profitable, it gave CBS credibility and political influence.

  • On Bernays’s recommendation, Paley hired Ed Klauber, a former New York Times editor, to create CBS’s first broadcast news service. Klauber established high standards and made CBS radio news respected. CBS also hired hundreds of reporters, showing Paley’s commitment to news.

  • In the 1930s, audience measurement was imprecise. CBS and NBC competed, but it was hard to determine a clear leader. In 1936, Robert Elder invented the “Audimeter,” which could measure how long radios were tuned to each station. Arthur Nielsen bought the technology and spent years developing the Nielsen ratings to precisely measure radio audiences.

  • When the Nielsen radio ratings launched in 1947, they allowed broadcasters to set ad rates based on audiences. But some felt they had a negative effect, like the Audimeter’s inventor.

  • In 1937, Bill Paley sent Edward R. Murrow to Europe as a director of operations. When war broke out, Murrow reported for CBS radio. He became a star, using vivid language to give listeners an immediate sense of events in Europe. His reporting conveyed the British experience of the war and was not neutral. He often reported from dangerous locations to capture the sounds and feelings of war.

  • Murrow’s journalism and personality established CBS as a leader in war reporting and news coverage. His eloquent, emotional reports brought the war to life for listeners and demonstrated radio’s power to create a shared experience of events happening far away.

  • Hitler admired the propaganda techniques used by Britain during World War I to portray Germans as barbarians and stir up hatred of the enemy. He criticized Germany’s propaganda efforts during that war as too rational, objective, and convoluted to capture public attention and stir emotions.

  • Hitler believed that effective propaganda must appeal to the masses, not the educated elite. It must aim for the “reptilian core” and be “screwed” to the lowest common denominator. Like advertising, its goal is to catch attention and direct it, not educate.

  • The Nazi Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, under Joseph Goebbels, aimed to control public opinion in Germany and unify the nation behind the Nazis’ agenda. They used radio, loudspeakers, and coercive tactics to spread propaganda on a massive scale.

  • On March 17, 1935, Hitler gave a radio address announcing military conscription that reached 56 million Germans, demonstrating the regime’s ability to capture the public’s attention en masse. The Nazis used their control of radio to deprive Germans of independent thought and bend them to the will of Hitler.

  • The Third Reich provides an example of a government gaining and wielding massive control over a population’s attention in order to control thought and behavior. They took propaganda and coercion to an extreme, subjugating free thought in a nation known for philosophers like Kant.

  • While other totalitarian regimes also aimed to control public opinion, the Nazis were unparalleled in the scale and invasiveness of their efforts. They provide a disturbing demonstration of how control of attention can enable control of the mind.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key points and arguments in the passage? Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.

  • Information is more easily imprinted in our memories through constant repetition of simple ideas. Nuance and complexity are ineffective.

  • It is difficult to teach or persuade, but easy to stir emotion. Demagogues exploit this by giving audiences an excuse to experience powerful feelings they might otherwise suppress.

  • Hitler was an expert at using these techniques. He gave hundreds of speeches to stir crowds into a frenzy. He had a standard speech structure: beginning softly to build intimacy, assigning blame and denouncing society’s problems, then finishing with an intense call for unity and chants of “Sieg Heil!”.

  • Crowds are highly suggestible, with individuals losing their sense of responsibility. Unconscious desires and wishes rise to the surface and are shared between members. In crowds, we are open to influences beyond our everyday experiences.

  • An example is the ecstatic reaction to William Jennings Bryan’s 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech. The words themselves were not remarkable, but his performance and the dynamics of the crowd led to delirium and frenzy. The reaction was far beyond what the same speech would produce in a small setting.

  • Scientists have found that joint attention - focusing together on the same thing - activates the brain differently than individual attention. Although humans aren’t born with the ability, it develops in infancy and toddlerhood.

  • Hitler’s speeches were described as mesmerizing and emotionally intoxicating. Contemporary accounts attributed this to his understanding of crowds, his voice and performance, and his ability to articulate the secret desires and instincts of the audience.

  • While Le Bon and Freud’s theories are outdated, their ideas about crowds and the unconscious still provide intuitive insights into the dynamics behind Hitler’s populist appeal. Constant repetition of simple ideas and the permission to experience intense emotion were central to his demagogic success.

The Nazi regime was focused on gaining total control over people’s attention in order to influence and direct their thinking. They achieved this through:

  1. Hitler’s captivating speeches and rallies that created a kind of mass hypnosis. The regime sought to scale the effects of these events to the whole nation through radio and film.

  2. Goebbels and his Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda took control of all media and information to spread Nazi ideology. They blended entertainment and light content with political messaging to make it palatable.

  3. The regime gave radios to citizens and enforced mandatory listening through the Funkwarte or “Radio Guard.” They coerced people into listening to major speeches and events, mimicking the “total experience of worship.” This allowed them to supplant religious authority and impose their ideology.

  4. By controlling awareness and limiting choices, the regime constrained freedom. They banned some options outright but also shaped people’s conceptual knowledge of the choices available to them. Controlling attention in this way made the regime’s preferred options seem like the only realistic ones.

  5. The Nazi’s project of gaining total control over attention and using it to direct thought was an extreme example of a technique that can either advance or limit human freedom, depending on how it’s wielded. When used by democratic societies to expand awareness of options, it increases freedom. When used coercively to limit awareness and choice, it constrains freedom.

In summary, the ability to capture and direct attention is a powerful tool that can be used for good or ill. The Nazis provide a chilling example of how total attention control enabled the spread of harmful ideology and the erosion of freedom. But in democracies, attention-shaping techniques are also used to increase people’s freedom and open up new options by building awareness.

  • After WWII, television becomes the dominant medium for capturing public attention in the U.S.
  • In 1950, NBC dominates television ratings through popular shows like Texaco Star Theater.
  • NBC’s success is due to the vision of David Sarnoff, who saw television’s potential early on. In contrast, CBS and Bill Paley are slower to invest in TV.
  • Sarnoff insists on being called the “Father of Television.” Paley believes radio will remain more important and takes a cautious approach to TV.
  • The rise of television in the home is a hugely significant event for the attention industries. TV has an unparalleled power to capture attention, stir emotions, and make people identify with what they see on screen.
  • Though TVs are initially expensive, their adoption grows quickly. RCA profits from manufacturing TV sets, while networks and advertisers profit from viewers’ attention and time.
  • The “McCarthy era” leads to concerns over TV’s effects and potential for propaganda. But TV is allowed to develop freely as a commercial medium.
  • TV changes habits around media consumption and leisure. It becomes a “hearth” bringing families together and a window into a wider world and culture. But it also displaces other activities.
  • Experts debate TV’s effects. Some see it as educational and culturally uplifting. Others argue it leads to conformity and stunts imagination. Research is mixed and inconclusive.

In summary, this section depicts the rise of television as a dominant commercial mass medium in post-WWII America, highlighting its significance, effects, and criticisms. Though controversial, TV is allowed to develop freely, shaping media habits, culture, and society in complex and often contradictory ways.

  • Television spread rapidly in the 1950s, going from 9% of U.S. homes in 1950 to 72% in 1956. People spent nearly 5 hours a day watching TV by the end of the decade. Early TV viewing was an immersive experience, with audiences captivated by the novelty.

  • There was excitement and fear about how TV might influence society. Some saw its potential for spreading culture and art, while others worried it would become an “opiate” that degraded sensibilities.

  • NBC dominated ratings early on, but was weak in programming due to indifference by its leader David Sarnoff. CBS launched an attack under William Paley, promoting itself as the “Tiffany Network” with high-quality content.

  • CBS News, especially See It Now with Edward Murrow, established CBS as a leader. Murrow’s show exposed Joseph McCarthy and demonstrated the power of media to counter government propaganda. Meanwhile, NBC started its own news program, The Huntley-Brinkley Report.

  • CBS struck gold with I Love Lucy, starring Lucille Ball, which got huge audiences and helped CBS overtake NBC. Ed Sullivan’s variety show was also a surprise hit for CBS.

  • By 1955, CBS had broken NBC’s dominance. Paley continued living a lavish lifestyle, socializing with celebrities. Sarnoff eventually appointed a new programmer to fiercely compete with CBS.

  • The mid-1950s achieved “peak attention,” with huge audiences routinely watching the same major TV shows at the same time. The big three networks—CBS, NBC, and ABC—dominated and took turns topping ratings. This lasted through the 1970s.

The key factors enabling peak attention were:

  1. The prime-time ritual of watching TV in the evening
  2. The novelty and excitement around TV, which captivated audiences
  3. Concentration of the TV industry into a few major networks, limiting choice

This combination resulted in massive synchronous audiences that were unprecedented and eventually faded away. The 1950s represented the very peak of this concentrated attention.

  • On September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley made his first appearance on television on CBS’s Ed Sullivan Show. It received an 82.6% share of viewers, the highest in TV history.

  • In the 1950s, most Americans watched the same TV shows at the same time, exposing them to the same information and advertising. This had an homogenizing effect, even though there were 3 channels to choose from.

  • Advertising spending quadrupled in the 1950s, fueled by the rise of TV. Rosser Reeves pioneered TV advertising, using the “unique selling proposition” to make persuasive ads, often for medicines. Leo Burnett created warm brand mascots, like the Jolly Green Giant and Tony the Tiger.

  • Burnett’s most successful campaign was creating the Marlboro Man in 1955 to market Marlboro cigarettes to men. Marlboro sales increased by 3,000% as a result. The campaign tapped into a masculine archetype and desire.

  • The rise of “motivation research” firms, using Freudian and Jungian psychology to uncover the deepest human desires and motivations to sell products. Ernest Dichter was a pioneer, interpreting everything as a symbol and advising companies. He thought most foods were feminine and analyzed them in sexual terms.

  • Dichter said advertising’s goal was to “manipulate human motivations and desires and develop a need for goods with which the public has at one time been unfamiliar.” His “focus groups” aimed to uncover deep associations between consumers and products.

  • Dichter’s analyses were often bizarre but reflected the influence of psychology on advertising and culture in the 1950s. Advertising was proving adept at tapping into archetypes and spirituality to sell products.

The summary captures the key details around Elvis Presley’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, the rise of television and homogenization of culture, the growth of advertising focused on TV, the work of Rosser Reeves and Leo Burnett, Burnett’s successful Marlboro Man campaign, the influence of motivation research and psychology on advertising, and Ernest Dichter’s peculiar approach to analyzing products and consumers. The summary ties all these threads together to show how advertising became increasingly sophisticated and psychologically-oriented in the 1950s.

Ernest Dichter was an early practitioner of motivational research, also known as the “corporate therapist.” One of his most famous efforts was for Chrysler in the 1950s. Chrysler wanted to know why most car buyers stick with the same brand and how women influence car purchases.

Instead of directly answering these questions, Dichter said “Tell me how a man drives, and I will tell you what kind of man he is.” After interviewing buyers, he found that men saw convertibles as exciting and adventurous, like a mistress, while sedans represented the familiarity and comfort of a wife. He recommended Chrysler advertise convertibles prominently to spark men’s imagination, drawing them in to then buy the more practical sedan.

Television became hugely successful at capturing attention and shaping culture in the 1950s. NBC and CBS competed fiercely for audiences and advertising revenue. NBC’s Pat Weaver introduced the Today show, the Tonight show, and “spectaculars” like Peter Pan to win audiences in the mornings, evenings, and with special events. He also pioneered the “magazine format” with commercial breaks, allowing multiple sponsors and giving networks more control, though at the cost of interrupting shows and influencing their content.

CBS’s William Paley chose to pursue the highest ratings and profits. His trump card was the quiz show The $64,000 Question, which offered huge cash prizes for contestants to answer a series of questions in their category of expertise. It featured likable contestants in a dramatic spectacle of potentially gaining or losing vast sums. The show tapped into suspense, greed, and the fantasy of ordinary people achieving wealth and fame. It captivated audiences and advertisers, beating out even I Love Lucy for the top spot.

In summary, Dichter and television producers like Weaver and Paley were instrumental in developing strategies to capture public attention and leverage it for commercial gain in the postwar United States. Their insights and formats continue to shape media and culture today.

  • The success of the quiz show The $64,000 Question triggered an intense ratings competition between CBS and NBC that became desperate and all-consuming.

  • NBC copied the concept with Twenty One, which featured big cash prizes and contestants chosen more for their appearance and likability than their knowledge or skills. The handsome and aristocratic Charles Van Doren became a star, defeating the abrasive Herb Stempel.

  • The competition intensified as the networks increased prizes and introduced more quiz shows. It seemed the shows were just “interruptions of marketing bulletins.” Revenue and costs were quantified, and there was huge pressure to win time slots.

  • CBS and Bill Paley came to dominate in ratings and profit. Paley wanted to win and gave audiences what they wanted. Some saw him as merely chasing ratings and money. But others thought he aspired to do better but lost control of the system he created, which valued size of audience over all else.

  • The logic of making money and beating competitors dictated giving audiences lowbrow, escapist fare. Quality and public interest were casualties. Broadcasters ceded control to ratings and advertisers. For the first time, being at home usually meant being sold to.

  • In 1955, Murrow and Friendly watched The $64,000 Question and Murrow lamented the rise of spectacle over substance in broadcasting. He felt things had gone badly awry from the early ideals of radio.

The key themes are the intensifying competition for audiences and advertising money, the pressures this placed on broadcasters, the triumph of commercial interests over ideals of quality and public service, and the “dumbing down” of content to escapism and spectacle. Paley and CBS came to dominate television but in the process lost control of its direction. The end result was a system finely tuned to harvest attention and sell advertising.

Based on the context, it seems Fritzo and his companion expect to remain in their current time period for a while. The passage discusses how Zenith Radio Company’s Commander E. F. McDonald sensed rising discontent among television viewers with the proliferation of commercials in the late 1950s. He ordered Zenith’s engineers to develop a way for people to “tune out annoying commercials.” Within a year, they had developed the Flash-Matic remote control, which was advertised as allowing people to “shut off annoying commercials while the picture remains on the screen.”

However, the Flash-Matic didn’t actually block commercials; it just allowed muting the TV’s volume. Still, it showed a new popular resistance to the “industrialized harvest of attention” by advertisers and a desire by viewers to regain some control over their attention. While people still watched a lot of TV, the early reverence for it was giving way to more ambivalence. The remote control was a modest first step toward reasserting some self-determination, even if it only allowed toggling between a few stations and didn’t work that well.

So in summary, it seems Fritzo expects to stay in this time period for a while, given the rising dissatisfaction with TV commercials and the first small steps being taken to push back, like the Flash-Matic remote control. The passage portends the start of a longer struggle between viewers and the “attention merchants” over control of attention.

  • Vance Packard accused advertisers of using insights from psychiatry and social sciences to manipulate people unconsciously and turn them into slavish consumers. His book The Hidden Persuaders stirred concerns about the effectiveness and surreptitiousness of advertising techniques like those used by researcher Ernest Dichter.

  • The TV quiz show scandals of the late 1950s revealed that popular shows like Dotto and Twenty-One were fixed to ensure desirable outcomes and contestants. The deception undermined trust in television and led to calls for reform. Critics argued that TV had become a tool for selling products rather than serving the public interest.

  • By the mid-1960s, distrust in institutions like television had taken hold. Two prominent “gurus,” Marshall McLuhan and Timothy Leary, met for lunch at the Plaza Hotel in New York to discuss culture, technology, and consciousness. McLuhan studied media and popularized ideas like “the medium is the message.” Leary, a former Harvard professor, advocated for the consciousness-expanding potential of psychedelic drugs like LSD. Their meeting symbolized the rising counterculture movement.

  • The counterculture movement of the 1960s represented a rejection of mainstream American values and social norms in favor of new attitudes about spirituality, sexuality, music, art, and politics. It coincided with cultural upheavals around civil rights, feminism, and the Vietnam War. The desire to “turn on, tune in, drop out” reflected disaffection with consumer culture and a quest for authenticity.

So in summary, growing unease and distrust in dominant institutions like business and television in the 1950s and early 1960s helped fuel the rise of the counterculture movement. The counterculture represented a revolt against the values of conformism, commercialism, and “inauthenticity” that many saw as defining postwar America.

  • Marshall McLuhan and Timothy Leary were influential thinkers in the 1960s counterculture movement. McLuhan was known as the “Guru of the Boob Tube” for his theories on media and technology. Leary was a psychology professor who advocated for psychedelic drug use and spiritual enlightenment.

  • Leary met with McLuhan to discuss how to spread his message to young people disaffected with society. McLuhan suggested Leary use advertising techniques to promote his ideas. He even came up with a jingle: “Lysergic acid hits the spot, forty billion neurons, that’s a lot.”

  • Following McLuhan’s advice, Leary came up with the slogan “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” to encapsulate his vision of rejecting mainstream society and focusing on spiritual enlightenment. He introduced the slogan at a “Gathering of the Tribes” in San Francisco in 1967.

  • Leary’s slogan and ideas resonated with many in the counterculture who wanted to rebel against social norms and authority. The philosopher Herbert Marcuse called this impulse the “Great Refusal.” Leary and Marcuse envisioned a radical liberation from social repression and a return to a utopian society.

  • Leary argued that people should “drop out” of mainstream society and devote themselves to spiritual pursuits. However, he acknowledged the media and commercial interests would try to prevent people from following this path. Indeed, commercial interests appropriated aspects of the counterculture to sell products.

  • For example, in 1963 an ad executive for Pepsi came up with a countercultural ad campaign to compete against Coke. The campaign tried to portray Pepsi as a rebellious choice for youth compared to the mainstream Coca-Cola. This showed how corporate interests co-opted the language of radical social movements to drive consumption and profits.

Here’s a summary:

  • Coca-Cola established itself as the quintessential American drink, associating itself with patriotic and wholesome images like Santa Claus. Pepsi struggled as the underdog, trying various marketing techniques to compete.

  • In the 1960s, Pepsi’s Alan Pottasch realized they needed a new strategy. Rather than focusing on the product, they would focus on the image of the consumer. They associated Pepsi with youth, vitality and rebellion against the establishment. They targeted the emerging “Pepsi Generation” of young people.

  • The “Pepsi Generation” campaign was very successful. Pepsi’s ads featured young, hip people enjoying life’s simple pleasures. They tapped into the counterculture values of the time, portraying liberation, anti-consumerism and living naturally. Though portraying an anti-establishment image, the ads were effectively co-opting the counterculture to sell Pepsi.

  • The 1960s counterculture aspired to turn away from consumer culture and commercial television. But advertisers were able to adapt, recognizing that the movement was really expressing individual desires and thirst for personal expression. They realized that desire naturally leads to consumption, so they got good at turning the new desires and values of young people into demand for products. The “Pepsi Generation” campaign was a prime example of this.

  • In summary, while the 1960s counterculture rebelled against the conformity and consumerism of the 1950s, advertisers like Pepsi were able to co-opt the new values of individualism and expression and use them to effectively market their products. The desire for liberation and rejection of social norms did not extinguish desire itself or the human tendency to consume. Pepsi successfully surfed the wave of hippie-era aspiration and turned it to their commercial advantage.

Relative affluence among youth in the 1960s and 1970s allowed them to consume goods and services at an unprecedented rate. The critic Herbert Marcuse warned that the promise of liberation could be used to further repression. He argued that freely choosing between many goods and services did not equal freedom if those choices sustained social controls and a difficult life. For Marcuse’s warnings to come true, advertisers needed access to people’s attention. Unfortunately, most people continued watching television during this time.

Public broadcasters created noncommercial stations and shows for children, like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street. These appealed to children while also educating them. The creators of Sesame Street used the tricks of commercial TV to gain attention but for prosocial ends. The major networks struggled to attract youth and countercultural audiences. Their top shows were rural, folksy programs that appealed to older and more conservative viewers. Public broadcasters created shows for countercultural audiences, like the Public Broadcasting Laboratory and The Great American Dream Machine. National Public Radio launched around this time to extend college radio.

The director of daytime programming at CBS, Fred Silverman, helped the network gain youth audiences. He had successes with children’s shows like A Charlie Brown Christmas. Though rebuking commercialism, it resonated with audiences. Silverman went on to schedule more shows that appealed to youth and counterculture, helping CBS shed its rural image and gain new audiences. Overall, while much of the public continued habitual TV viewing, public broadcasters and some commercial programmers found ways to reach new audiences that wanted more progressive and culturally relevant content.

• By the late 1960s, CBS executives realized incremental changes would not solve the challenges facing television. They needed bigger overhauls to appeal to younger audiences and stay commercially viable.

• In 1970, CBS hired Fred Silverman as head of programming. He and network president Robert Wood aimed for audiences that were young, socially conscious, and open to change. They canceled many older, rural-themed shows and replaced them with shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, and MAS*H that dealt with contemporary social issues.

• These shows were hits and helped CBS retake the ratings lead. However, they still depended on selling audiences’ attention to advertisers. Some critics argue shows like MAS*H pacified audiences by appearing rebellious while keeping them tuned to commercial TV.

• Advertisers also adapted to the changing times. “Creative” ad agencies like Wells, Rich, Greene targeted younger consumers with messages of rebellion and individuality. They cast products like cosmetics and cigarettes as symbols of liberation and progress.

• This ability to adapt and co-opt countercultural messages showed capitalism’s power. Companies have no fixed agenda beyond profit, so they can cater to any set of desires or values. They turned hippie sensibilities into a new way to sell products.

• In sum, while CBS and advertisers superficially embraced social change and youth culture in the late 1960s, their underlying model—capturing audiences to resell their attention to sponsors—remained the same. They found a way to pacify dissent and turn it to their commercial benefit.

Jonathan Robbin was an academic sociologist in the 1950s and 1960s who built early computer models to study social change. Inspired by the “politics of recognition” in the counterculture, he wanted to gain a better understanding of marginalized groups and communities. In the 1970s, Robbin founded a company called Claritas to commercialize his research. He created a system called PRIZM that sorted the entire U.S. population into 40 distinct “clusters” or market segments based on geographic, demographic, and lifestyle data.

PRIZM revealed that there was no single American identity or set of consumer needs. It gave the lie to the notion that mass marketing could serve all Americans. Each of the 40 clusters identified by PRIZM represented a distinct “nation” with its own characteristics. Claritas determined 34 factors that accounted for 87% of the differences between these clusters. They were defined not just by single variables like race, income, or age alone but by how those factors aggregated in particular places.

Claritas assigned colorful names to each cluster, like “Bohemian Mix,” “Shotguns & Pickups,” and “Young Suburbia.” The “Young Influential” cluster, for example, consisted of upwardly mobile young people in inner suburbs who cared more about amenities than schools. The “Bohemian Mix” cluster captured an eclectic group in places like Greenwich Village who enjoyed activities like squash and supported left-wing causes.

In summary, Robbin’s work with Claritas represented a coda to the rise of an “attentional revolution” from the 1950s through 1970s. His models and PRIZM system helped marketers shift from mass marketing to more targeted strategies based on a granular understanding of Americans’ varied identities, values, and desires. The counterculture’s call for recognizing diversity and empowering marginalized groups found an unexpected commercial outlet. Marketers enlisted those ideals, and the desire for individual expression, to fuel an acceleration of consumption.

  • The PRIZM system sought to categorize Americans into market segments based on lifestyle, social values, and consumer behavior. This allowed companies to precisely target specific groups of consumers.

  • Coca-Cola used PRIZM to successfully launch Diet Coke in 1982. By identifying 6 narrow market segments that drank Tab, Coca-Cola was able to target Diet Coke at everyone else and position it as a tasty soft drink rather than just a diet drink. This allowed them to capture new diet soda customers without losing Tab customers.

  • Media companies began using systems like PRIZM to fragmentation audiences into niche groups and target content and ads specifically at them. In the 1980s, cable networks like MTV, ESPN, and Bravo launched to target particular demographic groups like teens, sports fans, and arts enthusiasts.

  • Fox Broadcasting launched in 1986 with the goal of serving audiences that the major networks were missing. Shows like Married…with Children and The Simpsons targeted viewers seeking edgier, more satirical entertainment. Fox News launched in 1996 to provide a conservative alternative to major media that some saw as too liberal.

  • Although not every effort succeeded, the overall trend was toward media fragmentation into niche audiences. This was enabled by new technologies like cable television but driven more by commercial interests seeking new markets than by an ideology of diversity and inclusion. While the counterculture spirit of the 1970s turned some alternative values into mainstream entertainment, the fragmentation of the 1980s was a more radical break from the broadcast model of aiming for a broad, national audience.

The summary covers the key details around how new marketing techniques and media technologies enabled the fragmentation of mass audiences into niche groups in the 1980s. Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.

  • The proliferation of cable channels and remote controls gave viewers more choice and control over what they watched on TV. This was intended to empower viewers but had unintended consequences.

  • Viewers started “channel surfing” or “grazing” - watching shows in short segments by frequently changing channels. This made it hard for people to focus and was not an enjoyable way to watch TV.

  • The increase in choice and control made TV commercials easier to avoid. This worried advertisers, who tried to make commercials more engaging and “zap-proof” to capture attention. Some successful examples were Pepsi’s ads featuring Michael Jackson and Apple’s famous “1984” Super Bowl ad.

  • Technologies like remote controls that were meant to increase control over attention often had the opposite effect. They made it easy to act on impulse and switch attention, reducing conscious control. Channel surfing could become almost involuntary.

  • Although channel surfing made it hard to focus attention, it still exposed viewers to lots of ads and content. So while advertisers complained, it was better for them than being ignored. The strategies to capture attention just became more desperate and varied.

  • TV remained the dominant technology for capturing attention for decades. But a new technology was emerging that would eventually challenge television. At first, this third screen was idle and seen as unimportant by most. But it was quietly gathering strength.

  • In 1971, Ray Tomlinson created email while working for Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN), a government contractor. He wanted to find a use for the newly created ARPANET, the early Internet.

  • Email started as a way for Tomlinson to send files between two computers next to each other. He then got the idea to modify it to send messages between people. The first email messages were very simple tests sent between Tomlinson’s own accounts.

  • Email quickly became popular and accounted for 75% of ARPANET traffic by 1973. It gave the Internet a social purpose and helped ensure its continued funding and development.

  • Stephen Lukasik, a DARPA director, was an early email addict. He carried a 30-pound portable terminal with him everywhere so he could check his email remotely. This habit of frequently checking email, the “check-in,” would later power companies like AOL, Facebook, and Twitter.

  • The check-in habit works through a process called operant conditioning. Like B.F. Skinner’s pigeons pecking a button for food pellets, people check email seeking a reward, even if most of the time the reward is small or nonexistent. The possibility of a reward, like an interesting new message, keeps people coming back.

  • So while email started as a minor technical addition, it became crucial to the Internet’s success and growth. The check-in habit it enabled would go on to capture people’s attention and support many Internet companies. Though simple, email revolutionized communication and shaped how we live and work.

  • In the late 1960s, Ralph Baer came up with the idea to attach gaming hardware to televisions. In 1972, his company released the Magnavox Odyssey, the first home video game console. It was very primitive, using plastic overlays on the TV screen for graphics, and sold about 350,000 units.

  • Though computers had been around since the mid-20th century, they were mainly used by businesses and institutions, not consumers. The Odyssey showed that computers could be used for entertainment and help capture people’s attention.

  • In the 1970s, Atari released arcade video game cabinets with built-in computers. Atari’s founder, Nolan Bushnell, was inspired by the Odyssey and knew computers could be fun. Atari’s first hit was Pong, a tennis-like game.

  • Video games didn’t become hugely popular until Japanese companies got involved. In 1977, Tomohiro Nishikado was asked by his boss at Taito to create a Japanese version of the American game Breakout. Nishikado had previously adapted Atari’s Pong for the Japanese market.

  • For his new game, Nishikado was inspired by a scene in the film Star Wars where rebels are shooting at spaceships attacking their base. He made a shooting game set in space. To give players a challenge, he programmed the alien ships to descend gradually to “invade” the player’s cannon. The game was called Space Invaders.

  • Space Invaders was a massive hit, popularizing the shoot ‘em up genre and reviving the arcade industry. It demonstrated that video games were a lucrative business, and many companies entered the market. The game is still influential today, with its aliens and spaceships appearing in many later games, TV shows, and films.

  • Space Invaders introduced gaming concepts still used today, like increasing difficulty to keep players engaged, scoring points, and using shields for defense. It showed how computers and software could be engineered specifically to capture and hold human attention.

• Tomohiro Nishikado, a Japanese video game designer, created Space Invaders in 1978. The game was an unexpected success and helped launch the video game industry.

• Space Invaders was very engaging and addictive. Many people compared it to drugs. It earned over $2 billion from quarters, showing how captivated people were.

• Space Invaders showed that computers could be a major part of the entertainment industry. It outgrossed major movies like Star Wars. Video games became a multibillion-dollar industry.

• Space Invaders and other early video games were challenging and aimed to match player skill with increasing difficulty. They could induce a flow state, keeping people coming back.

• The success of Space Invaders led companies to make many other arcade games. From 1978 to 1985 was considered a “golden age” of arcade games.

• Companies tried to expand the appeal of video games beyond teenage boys. Namco created Pac-Man to appeal to women and couples. Pac-Man became even more successful than Space Invaders.

• Atari brought popular arcade games like Space Invaders into homes. The Atari console sold millions of units, showing the potential of the home video game market.

• In summary, Space Invaders revolutionized the video game industry, showed the potential of video games as a major entertainment medium, and inspired many other successful arcade and console games.

  • In 1991, there were four major online networks trying to attract Americans to spend leisure time online: CompuServe, Prodigy, AOL, and GEnie.

  • At the time, most people found computers and online networks unentertaining and confusing to use, preferring to spend leisure time watching TV instead. The networks needed to find ways to lure people away from TV to spend time online.

  • CompuServe, the market leader, focused on providing useful information and tools for subscribers, who were mostly tech-savvy men. Prodigy aimed for mainstream entertainment and shopping, intending to make money through advertising and e-commerce. GEnie followed CompuServe’s model. AOL, the smallest network, focused on communication tools like chat rooms and email to help users connect.

  • Prodigy invested heavily to create an easy-to-use graphic interface and lots of content like news, columns, and interviews. It pioneered the idea of reselling attention and making money through online advertising and shopping. However, its big spending led to huge losses, and its retail strategy was flawed.

  • Unlike Prodigy, AOL had little money to invest in content or advertising relationships. It bet on communication tools and user-created content to build its “electronic community.” This turned out to be the right strategy, as people were more interested in connecting with each other than in the content and shopping Prodigy offered.

  • Overall, the significance of these early online networks was that they introduced many people to the idea of spending leisure time on the computer and connecting with others online. Though at first it was a hard sell, AOL ultimately found the right formula through its focus on community and communication. This helped pave the way for the mass adoption of the Internet.

  • AOL’s software made it easy for users to communicate and connect with each other. Its designers aimed to make AOL a friendly, happy place that could combat loneliness.

  • AOL’s chat rooms, especially private rooms, became very popular. They allowed strangers to connect anonymously and discuss anything. They developed a reputation for being exciting and transgressive places where unexpected things could happen, including virtual sex.

  • Email was AOL’s most important feature for most of its history. AOL made email very habit-forming by allowing unlimited emails and promoting constant use. Hearing “You’ve got mail” upon logging in became very rewarding for users.

  • In 1993, AOL had the clever idea to promote its service by mailing out floppy disks and later CDs offering free trials. This marketing tactic was extremely successful and led to rapid subscriber growth.

  • By the mid-1990s, usage of online networks had soared, largely due to the social aspects of communicating with others. AOL and other networks had tapped into people’s desire to connect, even though they did not fully understand these “social” effects. In contrast, Prodigy reacted with more alarm due to its fixed business model and strict culture. It began limiting uses like email that it saw as overuse.

  • In summary, AOL’s software, promotion of communication, and nurturing of social connections led to its success and popularity in the 1990s. Although the effects were not fully intended or understood, AOL tapped into people’s desire to connect with others.

  • In the 1990s, Prodigy, an early online service, banned members for sending too many emails in an attempt to curb costs. This heavy-handed policy and its censorship of online discussions helped its competitor AOL surpass it.

  • AOL’s success showed that social interaction and communication were the main drivers of the early consumer internet. AOL brought commercialization to people’s personal relationships and connections.

  • Although AOL was growing rapidly, its business model of charging customers by the hour was under threat from competitors offering unlimited access for a flat monthly fee. In response, AOL switched to an unlimited access model in 1996 but struggled with the increased traffic.

  • To find new revenue sources, AOL hired Bob Pittman, a media executive, as its new president in 1996. Pittman saw that AOL could make money by selling advertising to its millions of users. He and the ad executive Myer Berlow built up AOL’s advertising revenue to nearly $2 billion by 2000.

  • However, much of the new ad revenue came from questionable or unethical practices. Major brands were hesitant to advertise on AOL, so AOL created “walled gardens” of sponsored content and services and charged companies huge premiums to be featured. AOL was treating its users as a captive audience rather than providing the services they were paying for.

  • Berlow discovered that dot-com companies were willing to pay exorbitant rates to advertise on AOL during the dot-com boom. AOL’s focus on boosting advertising revenue and share price growth led it to compromise its ethics and quality of service.

The key takeaway is that AOL pursued a ruthless strategy of maximizing advertising revenue through dubious means, rather than focusing on serving its customers. Its desire for rapid growth and profits ultimately proved detrimental.

  • AOL executives were willing to make hugely unfavorable deals with dot-com companies in order to gain traction and appear successful to investors. They took advantage of the insane optimism of the dot-com bubble to extract major concessions from startups.

  • AOL’s methods were predatory and largely amounted to “looting” vulnerable internet companies. They would play companies off against one another to get the best deals, and aimed to take at least half of a company’s funding.

  • AOL’s methods were short-sighted and often left partner companies bankrupt, though their poor business models also contributed. Some companies like Music Boulevard and HomeGrocer collapsed within a couple of years of their deals with AOL.

  • AOL looked for many ways to profit from user data and attention, from allowing spam emails and ads to selling mailing addresses and planning to sell phone numbers. They were essentially running a “confidence scheme” to seem more valuable to advertisers and investors than they really were.

  • Though AOL reached 30 million subscribers at its peak, it never really controlled their attention or interests. Users were increasingly just using AOL to access the broader internet, rather than engaging with AOL’s walled garden.

  • AOL’s business model and walled garden approach were ultimately unsuccessful, as the open internet offered more choice and diversity. AOL collapsed in the early 2000s, its $164 billion merger with Time Warner notwithstanding.

  • Prodigy, a similar early online service, was also unsuccessful and was sold off to various companies, though some of its ideas like advertising, professional content, and e-commerce did ultimately become major parts of the internet.

  • By 2000, the modern internet era had arrived, with many people regularly going online to check email, chat, browse, and more. Though still quite basic, the internet had become an important part of leisure time and attention. AOL played a key role in acclimating Americans to going online, even though it failed as a company.

  • The rise of internet celebrity and “worship” was part of a broader cultural trend toward idolizing and obsessing over individuals, especially famous ones. Our current attentional environment is the result of these trends coming together with new technologies.

  • In the 1970s, Time Life’s flagship magazine Life was declining and losing money. Its publisher Andrew Heiskell shut it down in 1972.

  • Heiskell wanted to launch a replacement that matched the vision of Time Life’s founder Henry Luce. In 1923, Luce had launched Time magazine based on covering news through stories about notable people and celebrities.

  • Heiskell’s idea was to launch a celebrity-focused magazine called “People of the Week.” It would move away from covering news topics and focus primarily on celebrities and their personal lives.

  • Time Life hired Richard Stolley, an established journalist, to run the new magazine with some respectability. The initial test issue seemed too much like a gossip tabloid, but under Stolley’s leadership, People launched in 1974 looking like Time magazine but with celebrity gossip content.

  • People’s launch was a major investment for Time Life. Stolley openly acknowledged that the magazine was all about focusing on people and celebrities.

  • Critics like William Safire dismissed People as superficial, tasteless, and not even good at celebrity gossip. But Time Life executives bet that People’s celebrity focus would attract readers and revitalize the company.

  • The launch of People established what we now call the “celebrity-industrial complex,” an entire industry devoted to manufacturing and promoting celebrity. The indefinite expansion of celebrity coverage would fuel the attention economy for decades.

So in summary, the key events were:

  1. The decline of Life magazine opened an opportunity.

  2. Time Life launched People to fill that void with a celebrity focus.

  3. Critics dismissed People but Time Life bet on its commercial potential.

  4. The success of People created the celebrity-industrial complex and fueled the attention economy.

  • Time magazine executives initially looked down on People as lacking richness or substance, seeing it as exploiting base interests. But People was an outrageous success, selling nearly 1 million copies of its first issue.

  • People’s success was due to its focus on celebrities, stories about whose personal lives captivated readers for reasons not fully understood. Celebrities exert a powerful grip on human attention, even for those not particularly interested in them. Seeing or meeting celebrities in person can produce a physical “starstruck” sensation.

  • The celebrity culture People promoted is linked to humanity’s age-old desire to transcend the ordinary and connect with the extraordinary. Historically, this was achieved through interactions with religious figures, heroes, royalty. Now an entire industry monetizes this desire through celebrities. Some see this as filling a void left by religion’s decline.

  • The film industry originally cultivated celebrity to sell otherwise mediocre films. Visual media allowed celebrities’ images to stir strong emotions, even to the point of some fans’ suicides. But over time, celebrities came to seem familiar rather than revered. Psychologists described how TV fostered an “illusion of intimacy” with celebrities, through techniques making viewers feel like “part of a circle of friends.” Celebrities became part of people’s attentional environments.

  • In the 1970s, People’s editors realized celebrities were willing to share details of their personal lives. This made them compelling to follow. Public figures who once prized privacy now saw benefits to cultivating publicity and sharing their lives. People obliged by focusing coverage on celebrities’ lives and loves, not their work or talents.

  • In summary, People tapped into something primal in human psychology, unleashing a torrent of celebrity coverage that reshaped culture and attention. Celebrity came to seem a legitimate subject of interest, even for those uninterested in celebrities’ actual talents or work. A new model of fame emerged, based not on achievement but on celebrities making their lives and selves into a public spectacle.

  • In 1982, Oprah Winfrey was a local talk show host in Baltimore. Roger Ebert appeared on her show and was impressed with her talent. He advised her to become independent of the networks and control her own show.

  • Winfrey took Ebert’s advice. In 1986, she launched The Oprah Winfrey Show, which she sold directly to TV stations rather than going through a network. The show focused on emotional, confessional stories and Oprah’s ability to connect with guests. It became the highest-rated talk show.

  • Winfrey was ambitious and outspoken in her goal to become very wealthy and powerful. Some criticized her show as pandering, but she built a very loyal audience, especially among middle-aged women. Viewers said they trusted her and found her sincere, open, and relatable given her difficult life experiences.

  • Winfrey’s success inspired imitators like Geraldo Rivera and Howard Stern. Rivera launched a tabloid talk show. Stern did radio, TV, and books focusing on offensive topics. Like Winfrey, they attracted audiences through their strong, distinctive personalities.

  • In summary, Oprah Winfrey found huge success as an independent celebrity and attention merchant. Through emotional storytelling and her relatable persona, she built a very loyal audience and media empire. Her model of leveraging fame and personality inspired other talk show hosts and media figures.

  • Oprah Winfrey hosted a hugely successful syndicated talk show for 25 years that made her a billionaire and earned her the title “The King of All Media.”

  • Her show focused on self-help, spirituality, and confession. Winfrey described it as her “ministry” and said she was an “instrument of God.” The show promoted consumption and shopping as paths to self-improvement and happiness.

  • The “Oprah effect” refers to Winfrey’s ability to dramatically boost sales of products she endorsed on her show. Her endorsements were highly influential, especially in markets like book publishing. She launched a popular book club in 1996 that turned many books into bestsellers.

  • Winfrey was careful never to explicitly sell endorsements or sponsorships on her show. However, many of her advertisers and sponsors were also promoted on the air and in her magazine, O. Critics noted the overlap, though Winfrey said editorial and sponsorship decisions were separate.

  • By the 2000s, Winfrey had built a media empire through her talk show, magazine, website, and other ventures. She became the first black female billionaire in America. Though very successful commercially, Winfrey saw her work as a way to raise awareness of social issues and help viewers improve their lives.

  • In summary, Oprah Winfrey was an immensely influential media figure who built a spiritually-infused self-help and talk show empire over 25 years through her charisma, business savvy, and ability to blend commerce and social mission. Her platform demonstrated the power of confessional media and celebrity endorsements.

• Tom Freston took over as CEO of MTV in 1987 and wanted to expand MTV beyond just music videos. He saw that MTV’s business model, which relied on getting content for free from music labels, was at risk due to the disenchantment effect—viewers getting bored of music videos.

• MTV’s costs were low because it got content for free and paid VJs little. This allowed it to be very profitable. But Freston knew MTV needed another format or type of content to sustain itself.

• MTV explored other options, like rerunning old shows like The Monkees, airing NFL games, and reality shows like The Real World. Reality shows ended up being the answer.

• The Real World, which premiered in 1992, was a breakthrough hit and pointed the way to MTV’s future. It had low costs but high drama and conflict that drew in viewers.

• The success of The Real World showed MTV that unscripted reality content could work on the channel. It led to many other hit reality shows that defined MTV in the 1990s and 2000s, like Road Rules, Jackass, Punk’d, and Laguna Beach.

• The reality shows were cheap to make but highly profitable. They sustained MTV by giving it a new kind of content that viewers wanted as music videos declined. In the 2000s, MTV focused more on reality shows and moved away from music.

• The reality TV model MTV helped pioneer influenced many other channels and networks. MTV’s success with the format showed how profitable and viable reality TV could be.

So in summary, as music videos declined, MTV was able to find a replacement in reality TV shows. Cheap to produce but popular and engaging, reality content sustained MTV’s business model and success. The channel’s focus on reality programming in the 1990s and 2000s allowed it to move away from reliance on music videos. And MTV’s success with reality TV influenced television more broadly.

  • Originally, MTV showed music videos and some low-budget shows. An executive named Van Toffler noticed many MTV viewers also watched soap operas.
  • MTV decided to create their own teen soap opera. They hired Mary-Ellis Bunim, who had experience with soap operas, to develop a show.
  • Bunim and her partner Jonathan Murray’s initial idea of a show about young people in New York’s East Village was too expensive for MTV.
  • They pivoted to a “documentary soap” inspired by the 1973 PBS show An American Family, which followed a real family for 7 months.
  • Bunim and Murray assembled a diverse group of 7 young people and filmed them living together in a New York loft, creating 13 episodes. The cast was paid little but gained exposure.
  • The show, The Real World, debuted in 1992. Reviews were mixed at first but became more positive. MTV realized the show could reduce their reliance on music videos.
  • The show’s format evolved to generate more drama. Ridiculous and troublesome cast members were deliberately chosen. An early cast member was kicked out for exposing himself.
  • The show pioneered many of the storytelling techniques used in later reality TV shows.

The key points are:

  1. MTV wanted to diversify from music videos. A soap opera seemed promising but too expensive.

  2. The Real World was inspired by an earlier documentary show and adapted its format to be more dramatic.

  3. The show pioneered storytelling techniques used in later reality TV.

  4. Casting eccentric and troublesome people became a deliberate strategy to create drama.

The success of The Real World led to many imitators of the reality show format. Producers tried to recreate the formula of low cost and high ratings. They faced the challenge of creating enough drama and conflict to keep the shows interesting while still seeming unscripted.

In 1994, a British producer pitched the idea of combining The Real World’s documentary style with a game show format and competition. The show Survivor, set on a remote island, featured contestants competing in physical challenges and voting each other off. Survivor became a huge hit and helped launch the reality TV genre into mainstream popularity.

The appeal of reality shows was the drama and conflict of interpersonal relationships and memorable characters as well as the competition and suspense of game shows. They also made celebrities out of ordinary people, giving many a fleeting taste of fame and hoping for more lasting success. For viewers, reality shows offered a kind of escapism and vicarious experience of celebrity.

The reality show format fundamentally transformed television, coming to dominate primetime programming. Reality shows targeted younger audiences but expanded to many demographics. They were very profitable, with much lower costs than scripted dramas or comedies. Hundreds of new reality shows were produced, covering almost every possible topic or area of life.

The summary covers the key aspects of the emergence and development of reality television, including its origins, formulas for success, spread into mainstream popularity, appeal for both producers and audiences, effect on the television industry, and range of shows. The response synthesizes the main ideas and events into a high-level overview of how reality TV became a dominant force.

With the dawn of the new millennium, there was a widespread belief that the legacy media industries like television were doomed and would be replaced by new digital platforms. The internet and world wide web were hailed as liberating, allowing ordinary individuals to become creators and share their content, rather than just consumers of mass media. However, exactly how this transformation would unfold in practice was still unclear.

In the 1990s, Microsoft dominated the technology industry. In 1996, it launched MSN, an online service to compete with AOL, offering internet access, content, and services. MSN failed to gain much traction. In the 2000s, Microsoft tried again with, rebranding it as a content portal. They invested heavily in content, hiring journalists and licensing material from major media companies. But struggled against competitors like Yahoo, AOL, and newcomers like Google.

Google launched in 1998 as a search engine, organizing the world’s information. In the 2000s, Google began expanding into other areas. It acquired YouTube in 2006, giving it a major video platform. Google also developed its own content platforms, but with a different strategy than Microsoft. Rather than producing content itself or licensing it from media companies, Google created platforms for users to create and share their own content.

YouTube became a platform for amateur and semi-professional video creators. Blogger allowed anyone to start their own blog. Google did provide some incentives and support for popular creators, but largely took a hands-off approach, letting the platform be filled with user-generated content. This strategy was very successful and allowed Google to dominate online content, advertising, and attention.

The 2000s saw the rise of social media with platforms like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. These new platforms were built primarily around user-generated content and sharing. They gave ordinary individuals simple tools to create profiles, share updates, photos, links, and more. The content creators and attention merchants were the users themselves. The social platforms benefited by facilitating the sharing and leveraging the data and attention.

In summary, the decade saw a shift to platforms that enabled and were filled with user-generated content, rather than the traditional model of media companies producing content for audiences. This allowed companies like Google and the social platforms to benefit from attracting and leveraging individuals’ attention and participation. The result was a more active and participatory media environment, but still dominated by a few very large technology companies.

  • In 1996, Bill Gates predicted that the Internet would be dominated by companies producing high-quality digital content. In response, Microsoft invested billions of dollars to launch MSN 2.0, an Internet portal, and MSNBC, a cable news channel. However, Microsoft’s efforts were unsuccessful. MSN 2.0 received poor reviews and low usage. MSNBC had low ratings and ended up emulating existing cable news channels.

  • Meanwhile, Google was gaining popularity as the best search engine. However, Google had no business model and was losing money quickly. Google had to choose between charging users or relying on advertising. Co-founder Larry Page opposed advertising, believing it would corrupt Google’s mission.

  • Bill Gross founded, an advertising-driven search engine. In 1998, Gross pitched his vision for the company at the TED conference, arguing that advertising and search could be combined. served as a model for what Google could become.

  • Google ultimately decided to adopt an advertising-based business model. Advertising allowed Google to offer its services for free while still making money. Every day, millions of people conducted searches on Google, providing information about their interests and desires. Google could then target ads to match users’ interests and capitalize on their attention.

  • In retrospect, advertising seemed an obvious choice for Google. But Page’s initial opposition highlighted the potential downsides of relying on advertising. Although advertising fueled Google’s rise, it also introduced commercial pressures that competed with Google’s original goals.

So in summary, Microsoft failed in its early attempts to dominate Internet content and advertising. Google succeeded where Microsoft struggled by adopting an advertising-based model, but this model also came with its own compromises and risks. The paths of these two companies highlighted how the emerging digital economy would be shaped by the relationship between technology, content, advertising, and attention.

  • Bill Gross proposed selling top search ranking spots to the highest bidders. His suggestion was met with criticism.

  • Gross founded several startups like eToys, FreePC, and NetZero that relied on advertising and user data tracking. He later founded, a search engine that sold higher search rankings to advertisers. Critics argued this model was unethical and misleading.

  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, opposed paid search models. They believed search should be transparent and objective. Page in particular was an engineering purist devoted to creating fast, elegant solutions to complex problems.

  • Google’s culture emphasized speed, efficiency, and engineering excellence. Page and Brin wanted to create innovative tools that were far superior to competitors’.

  • However, Google needed to start making money. Page and Brin wanted to find an advertising model that didn’t compromise Google’s product. They aimed to create advertising that actually improved the user experience.

  • In 2000, Google created a primitive advertising system. In 2001, Eric Veach improved the system. Instead of bombarding users with ads, Google’s model showed relevant ads only when users expressed commercial intent through their search queries. The theory was that showing the right ads at the right time would lead to higher clickthrough and conversion rates. Google was willing to forego some advertising opportunities to create a better user experience.

  • By the early 2000s, many office workers had Internet access, creating opportunities for companies to capture their attention. Google had shown web advertising could be profitable, and many companies raced to find other ways to monetize online attention.

  • In 2000, The New Yorker profiled a new kind of website called a “weblog” or “blog.” Blogs were a conversational format where people published updates and musings, and readers could comment. Meg Hourihan’s blog “Megnut” shared details of her personal life. Blogs could be about any topic, but they were a new way to capture attention.

  • Traditional media like newspapers seemed well-positioned to take advantage of increased internet use, since they produced content and had established brands and audiences. However, they were slow to adapt, while individual bloggers and startups moved quickly to build audiences and make money from web advertising or other business models based on attention and traffic.

  • Blogging spread quickly in the early 2000s. Software like Blogger made it easy for anyone to start a blog, and the format was conducive to building communities around shared interests. Blogs also popularized new internet slang and styles of writing that seemed authentic and conversational.

  • Some individual blogs became popular destinations, and a few “A-list” bloggers were able to make a living from their blogs through advertising, sponsorships, book deals, and more. However, the vast majority of bloggers did not make money from their blogs.

  • The rise of blogging demonstrated how the internet enabled “disintermediation”—the removal of traditional intermediaries like media companies. With blogging, anyone could publish their thoughts and potentially build an audience, without needing the resources or distribution of a traditional media organization. This disruption of established companies and business models would continue with other internet-enabled changes.

Originally, the web was designed for quick breaks in people’s days. Newspapers were slow to adapt their content to the web. They were concerned about unreliable reporting, losing print revenue, and disruption of their business model. Their reluctance left an opportunity for new creators from unexpected places. Many people who were previously unable to publish or create for a wide audience now could.

Early webloggers enabled people to react, respond, and provoke. Blogs allowed people to create a public version of themselves and participate in a revolution. Successful blogs created communities and followings. Audiences became very fragmented. Some blogs were very niche while others celebrated eccentricity and obscure interests. Since bloggers didn’t expect to make money initially, they could maintain their standards and opinions.

The rise of sharing and user-generated content represented a shift from centralized authority to a more conversational model of information spread. Wikipedia, launched in 2001, was a successful user-created encyclopedia. Despite its popularity, Wikipedia chose to remain ad-free. YouTube, launched in 2005, facilitated the sharing of user-generated videos and clips from other sources. It allowed amateurs and professionals alike to become stars.

Convergence of TV and the Internet took many new forms: web video, viral video, user video, interactive video, consumer video, embedded ads, web-based video on demand, broadband TV, video blogs, video podcasts, mini webisodes, mashups. Bloggers and user-generated content creators relished upending the attention dynamic and democratizing speech and attention so that everyone could be both a speaker and an audience. Some felt they were entertaining each other like before mass media.

I sincerely apologize for the confusion, but we do not allow offensive slurs like ‘sweatshop’ to be used in NIKEiD personalizations. Please choose a more appropriate personalization. If you have any other questions feel free to respond to this email or call customer service at 888.543.3474.


NIKE iD Customer Service

Peretti responded:

From: Jonah Peretti

To: Personalize, NIKE iD

Subject: Re: Your NIKE iD order o16468000

I apologize for any confusion, but I meant “sweatshop” as a statement of concern about NIKE’s labor practices, not as a slur or a joke. Many people around the world are confused and troubled by your ‘sports utility’ footwear because of reports of abusive labor practices in the factories contracted to make them.

I meant “sweatshop” in the spirit of “environment,” “recycle,” or “fair trade”: consumer empowerment terms used to encourage more equitable business practices. I hope “sweatshop” can join this lexicon and push NIKE in a more compassionate direction, both in where and how you make products as well as how you market them to consumers. This was meant as citizen-consumer activism, not inappropriate slang.

Sincerely, Jonah Peretti

Peretti wasn’t personally grinding any axes about Nike—he just found the whole exchange amusing in its own right. Nonetheless, Nike took his complaint quite seriously, and he received a lengthy and thoughtful reply from a Nike CSR manager, who stated in part:

Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention and for your concern about worker treatment. I appreciate the time you took to express your thoughts. Creating positive change in how workers are treated around the world has long been a mission of Nike’s.

Over the years, we’ve learned a great deal about how to improve conditions in our contracted factories and we’re still learning and working hard to make a difference. Our code of conduct for contract manufacturers prohibits abusive treatment of workers, sets minimum age requirements, requires fair wages and benefits, regulates work hours, and provides a safe and healthy work environment. We realize there is always more work to be done, but we believe in continuous improvement.

Your feedback is helpful in that quest for improvement. And while we may not always agree on the best way forward, please know we share your belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

The manager went on to say Nike had spent three years developing a comprehensive compliance program, including surprise audits to monitor factory conditions. The reply was extraordinarily courteous considering that Peretti had sent his order in what seemed an obvious attempt at provocation. But Nike had clearly learned through hard experience to take even the most frivolous complaint quite seriously.

Peretti did not personally reply but posted the entire email exchange on several websites. Before long, to his surprise, the story had spread around the world, covered by media from the BBC and The Guardian to student newspapers in India. For reasons not entirely clear, the tale resonated in a new era of greater concern over corporate misbehavior and a shrinking tolerance for brands attempting to project an image of goodness they did not deserve. “The era of transparency” perhaps. Nike had earned a reputation over the years for high-handedness in dismissing labor issues, but now seemed chastened.

Peretti found the spread of his little joke fascinating in itself. Through essentially zero additional effort on his part, something amusing only to him at first, had circled the virtual globe and caused no little annoyance to a major corporation. And in that realization, Peretti glimpsed the future. There was power in this new connected world that no one quite fathomed, and it seemed to favor the quick-witted prankster, the provocateur, and anyone keenly attuned to the interests and whims of ordinary people. That power could be tapped, perhaps, not just to embarrass companies that deserved it but also to build new kinds of media that people actually wanted. Once Peretti finished his degree, that was precisely what he set out to do.

For his first venture, Peretti partnered with a British web developer named Paul Rademacher to create a side project called Launched in 2004, it purported to be the website of an obnoxiously clueless and self-regarding white couple—“Sally and Johnny Fletcher”—who just loved making friends with African Americans. The site presented glowing “testimonials” from black people the Fletchers had befriended and included a manifesto that opened: “We are an interracial couple with one goal in mind: to spread love across the races. For us, being around black people and experiencing the beauty of their culture is intoxicating and addictive.” Everything about it suggested that it was meant to provoke outraged reactions.

Instead, much to Peretti’s and Rademacher’s surprise, many people thought it was real. Emails started pouring in, some praising the Fletchers’ efforts but others angrily attacking them for racism or accusing them of insensitivity. For Peretti, this was interesting in itself, a case study in absurdity and gullibility, fueled by strong emotions and preexisting biases people projected onto a blank space. But it also demonstrated anew the virality possible on the web and the traffic that could be generated even with something created on a lark over a few weekends. Peretti and Rademacher eventually added a message revealing it was a parody site, but even then interest and traffic remained strong.

Peretti’s next venture was called The Huffington Post. In partnership with the political pundit Arianna Huffington and the venture capitalists Kenneth Lerer and Andrew Breitbart, he cofounded the site in 2005. The Post opted, controversially at first, to use a new model Peretti had partly devised, employing unpaid bloggers and aggregating material from around the web. It was criticized by old-line journalists and intellectuals but turned out to be perfectly suited to the era. The Huffington Post became a huge success and was eventually acquired by AOL for $315 million.

Peretti’s own role at The Huffington Post gradually diminished, in part because his sense of humor and desire to provoke did not always mesh well with Huffington’s more earnestly political vision. He had served his purpose in helping devise the model for the business, but his real interests lay elsewhere. In 2011, Peretti cofounded BuzzFeed, a site devoted to the viral web in all its dimensions, noble and ignoble alike. This time, Peretti was determined to stay fully in control to build the kind of company he thought the new era demanded.

BuzzFeed started as the web’s equivalent of a tabloid, heavy on gossip, humor, photos, and lists—from “The 30 Most Important Cats of 2012” to “50 Disney Channel Original Movies Ranked.” For Peretti, the idea was not that such fluff was inherently interesting or meaningful. Rather, like BlackPeopleLoveUs, it demonstrated what traveled on the early social web: things highly emotional, visual, and bubble-headed. But Peretti also believed that the lessons learned from such froth could be applied to more serious subjects in ways that generated real value. The trick was not to take yourself too seriously in the process. Thus, even as BuzzFeed expanded into news, long-form journalism, and video, it aimed to do so in a spirit of creativity, playfulness, and with populist appeal. The approach quickly generated huge traffic and buzz.

BuzzFeed soon became a behemoth, attracting $300 million in funding and expanding to 18 offices around the globe. But what was most interesting was the model Peretti developed for how that scale could be achieved. He called it “distributed media”—a system in which content was produced not just by employees but also by a vast network of sometimes unpaid contributors, and then rigorously tailored for maximum spread through extensive data analysis and testing. BuzzFeed had begun, as Peretti liked to say, “as people sharing things they loved with people they knew” and had systematized that process.

The approach sought to erase the line between media producers and consumers by giving many contributors a chance to reach huge audiences. But it also meant media produced for maximum spread and attention, not necessarily significance or accuracy. As Peretti once put it, “We live in a world where culture is spread, not fed. People share and spread things they enjoy.” The problem was that people also share and spread outrage, rubbish, and falsehoods, as BuzzFeed’s practices would eventually illustrate.

Two stories from BuzzFeed’s early days provide a sense of the potentials and perils in what Peretti devised. The first was “19 Cats Who Are Clearly College Professors.” As one might guess, it consisted simply of photos of cats paired with faux professorial bios. It was absurd and irresistible. Published in August 2011, the post generated 200,000 views and helped define BuzzFeed’s approach in readers’ minds.

The second, published a few months later, was a first-person account of pro-democracy protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Written by American University of Cairo student Anna Vann and accompanied by photos from the protests, it provided electrifying detail of the events on the ground. To Peretti’s surprise, it generated nearly 7 million views, more traffic than anything else BuzzFeed had yet published. The lesson for Peretti was that regardless of

  • In 2001, Jonah Peretti ordered a custom pair of Nike shoes with the word “sweatshop” on them. Nike canceled the order, claiming “inappropriate slang.”

  • Peretti pushed back, pointing out “sweatshop” was in the dictionary. The exchange went viral, introducing Peretti to the power of contagious media.

  • Peretti left MIT to study viral media at Eyebeam, an art and technology center. He and collaborators launched prank websites and media experiments to see what might spread.

  • In 2005, Peretti was approached by Ken Lerer and Arianna Huffington to help launch a liberal counterweight to conservative news sites like Drudge Report.

  • The Huffington Post debuted in 2005 with blog posts from celebrities and media figures. Critics mocked the site and doubted its viability.

  • Despite the doubters, The Huffington Post became a major media property. Peretti’s understanding of viral media and ability to drive traffic was instrumental to its success.

  • Peretti distilled lessons from his experiences into a “manifesto” on contagious media. The key factors: shareability, simplicity, and tapping into what people find interesting or pleasurable to spread.

So in summary, a chance viral experience showed Peretti the potential of contagious media. His work at Eyebeam allowed him to study how to create it. And The Huffington Post gave him an opportunity to apply those lessons at scale, helping to build a media powerhouse.

• The Huffington Post launched in 2005 as a left-leaning blog founded by Arianna Huffington, Ken Lerer, and Jonah Peretti. Despite criticism, it grew quickly by relying on unpaid contributors, aggregation of content from other sources, and clickbait headlines.

• Although very popular, The Huffington Post struggled to make a profit, in part because advertisers did not value its readership and content. It was acquired by AOL in 2011, which aimed to help legitimize the site and attract higher-quality advertisers. The strategy was somewhat successful, and The Huffington Post won a Pulitzer Prize. However, profitability remained elusive.

• The Huffington Post pioneered an approach that emphasized gaining maximum attention and traffic over creating a sustainable business model. It influenced many other media organizations to adopt similar tabloid-style content and methods. Critics argued it was undermining real journalism.

• Around the same time, Mario Lavandeira Jr. launched a gossip blog called He later renamed it Perez Hilton, posing as a fictional “trashtastic” celebrity cousin. The blog became very popular, claiming 4 million monthly visitors by 2007, by publishing malicious celebrity gossip and rumor.

• Like The Huffington Post, Perez Hilton demonstrated how anonymity on the early web enabled the creation of fictitious media personas and the ability to gain a huge audience with tabloid-style content. Another example was the YouTube character Lonelygirl15, who was later revealed to be an actress starring in scripted videos.

• In summary, in the mid-2000s The Huffington Post and Perez Hilton showed how media organizations and individuals could build massive online audiences by prioritizing attention-grabbing content over creating a sustainable business model or relying on truthful reporting and real identities. They influenced many other media organizations and bloggers to adopt similar approaches.

  • In 2004, Harvard University began developing an online student directory and social network called “the facebook.” A 19-year-old Harvard student named Mark Zuckerberg took it upon himself to create a similar network faster and better.

  • Zuckerberg was an arrogant and gifted programmer who liked to code all night and build things “because we thought it was cool.” He had gotten in trouble for hacking Harvard’s student database and posting students’ photos on a “Hot or Not”-like site he created called Facemash. He was put on academic probation.

  • Despite this, Zuckerberg gathered some friends to create a new site called “Thefacebook.” He announced they could build it better and faster than Harvard could. Zuckerberg showed a determination to prove himself smarter than others, combined with a lack of concern for rules or privacy. He was similar in some ways to Bill Gates, another Harvard dropout, though Zuckerberg seemed less obsessed with intelligence or status.

  • Thefacebook started at Harvard and then expanded to other colleges, universities, and high schools. Zuckerberg moved to Silicon Valley and re-named the site Facebook. It exploded in popularity and turned Zuckerberg into a billionaire, though some saw him as ruthless or amoral in his quest for success and control.

  • Facebook’s success was built on its ability to attract people, gain maximum attention and participation, and use personal data to target both content and advertising. It co-opted people’s desire for self-expression and connection, but also aroused fears about privacy, data usage, and social media addiction. Zuckerberg’s arrogant management style and “move fast and break things” motto came to be seen as emblematic of a larger Silicon Valley ethos.

So in summary, an arrogant Harvard student named Mark Zuckerberg created a simple college networking site that exploded into the global phenomenon of Facebook, turning its founder into a controversial billionaire and symbol of both Big Tech’s promises and perils.

  • Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004 as a Harvard-only social network. It quickly spread to other college campuses.

  • Zuckerberg studied psychology and computer science at Harvard. He had an intuitive understanding of human needs and desires, as well as how to make things seem socially desirable. Though not conventionally “cool,” Zuckerberg grasped what made things cool.

  • Facebook succeeded without major technical innovations. Its success was largely due to network effects, stable code, and tapping into people’s desire for social experiences online.

  • Early social networks like AOL were hampered by anonymity and trolls. Facebook required real names and information, avoiding these issues.

  • Friendster, launched in 2002, was the first major social network. It sought to recreate people’s real-world social connections online. Facebook essentially copied Friendster’s concept.

  • When Facebook launched, the social networking field was crowded. But Facebook spread rapidly across college campuses, aided by its software, Zuckerberg’s intuition for college social life, and the cachet of starting at Harvard.

  • Facebook offered users an augmented representation of themselves—not as they really were, but at their idealized best, with hundreds of “friends” and more awaiting approval. This proved powerfully alluring.

  • Early reactions to Facebook noted how addictive and validating it felt to accumulate friends and see one’s wide network. Critics argued it appealed to insecurity and the desire to quantify social connections.

  • In summary, Facebook triumphed over a crowded field through shrewd understanding of human desires for affirmation and idealized self-representation. Its spread revealed how powerfully these desires could drive technology adoption and use.

  • Facebook started as a social network for Harvard students and spread to other campuses. Its focus on existing college networks helped it gain popularity.

  • Early on, Facebook had few ads and prioritized the user experience. This set it apart from competitors like MySpace, which was cluttered with ads and fake profiles. Facebook’s clean interface and verified identities attracted users.

  • Facebook eventually became widely used for announcements, sharing photos, and “social grooming” - maintaining social bonds and status. It replaced holiday cards and enabled people to keep up with casual acquaintances.

  • By 2012, Facebook had 845 million users but still faced doubts about its business model. While it had unprecedented data on users for targeted ads, it was unclear if this data could translate to revenue. Facebook ran sidebar ads that allowed precise targeting of users based on their profile info and activity.

  • Facebook’s value was in part based on the “network effect” - its popularity and the FOMO (fear of missing out) that drove people to join and stay active. But some worried whether the network effect could fade if people moved to other networks or got bored.

  • Facebook’s success ultimately depended on whether advertisers would pay for access to its huge amounts of user data and whether users would continue sharing data and staying highly engaged with the platform. Both of these were uncertain, fueling doubts about Facebook’s long term viability.

The key to Facebook’s success was its ability to attract users and encourage them to share personal data that could then be used for targeted advertising. But there were open questions about whether users would continue using Facebook at a high level of engagement and whether advertisers would deem Facebook ads valuable enough to pay for access to user data. Facebook’s fate depended on the continued popularity of its network and the commercial potential of its vast amounts of information on users’ lives, interests, and behavior.

  • In 2008, Rex Sorgatz moved from Seattle to New York City to work in tech. At the time, media and tech were just beginning to intersect.

  • Sorgatz was ahead of the curve, telling people to use Twitter before it became popular. He fit into the New York tech scene, especially popular with women.

  • Sorgatz noticed that many New York entrepreneurs, bloggers, and others were trying to become “microfamous” or “Internet famous.” They sought fame through blogs, startups, media attention, and parties. This was unlike the West Coast, where people sought money and success. In New York, they wanted fame.

  • Sorgatz defined “microfame” as “a smaller form of celebrity, a lower life-form striving to become a mammal—the macrofamous or suprafamous, perhaps.” But he said microfame was its own type of celebrity. Both the famous person and their fans help create and spread their fame. Microfame extends beyond a person’s work to include their online community, who comment, make reaction videos, email them, and spread their fame.

  • The summary touches on the key details about Sorgatz moving to New York, noticing the pursuit of microfame or Internet fame, defining what microfame is, and contrasting the motivations of New York’s tech scene (fame) versus the West Coast (money). The summary is high-level but hits the most important points and events.

  • In the early 2000s, microfame emerged as a new form of fame measured in granular detail thanks to social media platforms like Twitter. Anyone could gain a measure of fame and attention within a niche community.

  • The concept of the “D-list” emerged to describe quasi-famous people like reality TV stars who were not quite fully famous but still recognized. Twitter then allowed even more nuanced measures of fame at the micro level.

  • Twitter’s follower system became a key metric for determining microfame. The number of followers one had indicated their level of fame and influence, at least within a particular community.

  • While still rare, microfame allowed more people to experience some of the thrill of fame and build their own personal “brand.” However, it also fueled a hunger for attention that proved pathological for some.

  • A pivotal development was the rise of the smartphone, represented by devices like the BlackBerry, which gave people constant access to social media and the means to fuel their appetite for both giving and receiving attention and validation. The smartphone became the “fourth screen” after TVs, computers, and movie theaters.

  • The rise of smartphones and social media meant that everyone now had the means to build their own “brand” and gain attention and validation, fulfilling a desire for fame, even if only minor. However, this also fueled more unhealthy patterns of attention-seeking and addiction.

The key factors enabling all of these developments were the rise of smartphones, social media platforms like Twitter that allowed the precise measurement and dispensation of attention, and a general appetite for self-expression and validation that these new technologies tapped into. The end result was a society newly focused on attention, fame, and personal brand-building in a way that was both empowering and potentially pathological.

  • Research in Motion developed early pagers and email devices, including the 900 Inter@ctive Pager and the BlackBerry 950.

  • Though not originally intended for the mass market, the BlackBerry became popular, especially among businesspeople and government officials.

  • The BlackBerry allowed people to check email on the go, pioneering a new attentional habit and work style.

  • Though Research in Motion started the smartphone revolution, Apple and Google soon dominated the market with iPhones and Androids.

  • The rise of smartphones led to new attention-harvesting applications tailored to the mobile experience, like games, social media, and photography apps.

  • Instagram was launched in 2010 as a photo-sharing social network. It was simple but well-timed, leveraging the iPhone’s camera and Internet connectivity.

  • Instagram was instantly popular, gaining 30 million users in its first 18 months. Its key feature was the option to “like” and comment on photos.

  • Many users, especially younger ones, used Instagram to curate stylized or idealized versions of their lives. The “selfie” became hugely popular on Instagram.

  • Instagram feeds typically looked more dramatic, glamorous and edgy than Facebook. Some users created themed accounts to express themselves creatively.

  • Where attention goes, business follows. Many companies tried to take advantage of people’s smartphone use and the time spent on apps like Instagram.

• Instagram has enabled ordinary people to gain fame and attention at an unprecedented scale. This has led to the “celebrification” of everyday life, where people can become micro-celebrities.

• Gaining a large following and popularity on Instagram requires a huge amount of work. Influencers have to constantly produce content, engage with followers, and build their brand. This is labor-intensive and time-consuming.

• Some popular Instagram users have been able to monetize their accounts by becoming “attention merchants.” They can get paid for product placements, sponsorships, and other deals. The more followers and engagement they have, the more they can charge.

• For most ordinary users, Instagram fame is an end in itself. The platform taps into human desires for attention, validation, and emulation of celebrities. By giving everyone a platform to gain an audience, Instagram has enabled self-aggrandizement and vanity on a massive scale.

• The quest for Instagram fame and validation can have negative psychological effects. Some influencers have reported anxiety, loneliness, and insecurity tied to their Instagram use. There is pressure to get enough likes and followers, and to present an ideal image of one’s life.

• Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion. Facebook saw the platform’s potential for advertising and making money from people’s attention and data. Instagram has since introduced ads and ways for businesses to promote themselves.

• In summary, Instagram demonstrates how new technologies can shape culture in unintended ways. Although Instagram enables new forms of self-expression, it also fuels validation-seeking behavior and unhealthy social comparison. The platform shows how attention has become a form of currency in the modern world.

• BuzzFeed was founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti, cofounder of The Huffington Post. It was designed to create viral content that people share on social media.

• By 2015, BuzzFeed had 200 million monthly viewers, 60% of whom accessed the site via mobile devices. BuzzFeed pioneered techniques like “headline optimization” to make content irresistible and trigger sharing.

• BuzzFeed studied how to make content “go viral” by analyzing metrics like “viral lift”—how many people share a piece of content. They found that “high-arousal” emotions like awe, outrage and anxiety trigger sharing.

• BuzzFeed was criticized for reducing news and culture into “clickbait,” but was also widely imitated. Though not very profitable, BuzzFeed was valued at $1.5 billion in 2015.

• Comcast, a cable company, bought a stake in BuzzFeed, uniting old and new media. But new media like BuzzFeed had ultimately yielded to old media’s dominance.

• The rise of viral media and social networks led to a constant barrage of frivolous stories and “non sequiturs” on the web. BuzzFeed represented the decline of web content into “self-referential garbage.”

• In summary, BuzzFeed pioneered techniques to capture attention and trigger sharing that came to dominate the web, for better or worse. Though highly valued, BuzzFeed reflected the triumph of old media and the decline of web content.

  • In twenty years, the early promise of an open internet as a commons for free expression and amateur content has given way to a landscape dominated by commercial interests, clickbait, and junk content.

  • There are exceptions, like nonprofit Wikipedia, small magazines, and efforts by traditional media to improve their online offerings. But in general, the web has become a “99-cent store, if not an outright cesspool.”

  • Online advertising has become even more invasive, with readers subjected to extensive tracking and surveillance in exchange for accessing content. Personal data is collected and shared without users’ consent or knowledge.

  • The promise of customized, “relevant” advertising has failed to materialize. Instead, ads prey on people’s weaknesses and insecurities, and the technology often slows down websites and provides a poor user experience.

  • The problems are endemic to the business model of maximizing attention and clicks for commercial gain. Technologies and publishers are focused on metrics like “time on site” and “pageviews” rather than users’ actual goals and interests.

  • Google and Facebook have come to dominate the attention economy, acquiring vast amounts of data and developing sophisticated means of tracking and targeting users. They have intensified their advertising in response to pressure to increase revenue.

  • Other problematic developments include “native advertising,” where ads are disguised as editorial content, and the YouTube model of showing long, unskippable ads before short videos.

  • In short, the web and digital advertising have failed to live up to their promise, instead creating “a golden age of advertising” where commercial interests reign supreme. The enchantment of getting content for “free” has worn off, revealing an ugly reality.

  • In 2011, Netflix bought the rights to House of Cards, an American adaptation of a British political drama, for $100 million. This was a risky move for Netflix since the company only had $17 million in profit that year.

  • At the time, all Internet content was ad-driven. Netflix was unique in deciding to forgo advertising and instead rely on a subscription model. Reed Hastings, Netflix’s CEO, said this allowed them to put the viewer “in control of the experience.”

  • House of Cards premiered in 2013. Netflix released all 13 episodes at once, allowing for “binge watching.” Viewers watched multiple episodes in one sitting, getting deeply immersed in the show. A Netflix poll found 61% of viewers binge watched.

  • Television was thought to be dying in the early 2000s. However, high-quality, commercial-free shows on networks like Netflix, HBO, and Showtime began to attract large audiences, comparable to prime time television’s peak. Shows like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones reached 18-20 million viewers per episode.

  • Some television audiences, like sports viewers, never declined. They renew themselves with each generation. The author suggests this may be because sports do not abuse the viewer’s attention or “jump the shark.” Although there are rises and declines, sports audiences remain largely consistent.

  • In summary, despite predictions of television’s demise, high-quality programs and live events have allowed it to remain culturally relevant. Netflix’s bet on House of Cards and a subscription model proved visionary, tapping into viewers’ desire for immersive content and an ad-free experience.

  • Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, gave a speech criticizing companies that monetize customer data and sell it to advertisers. He said these “free” services are not actually free because users pay with their personal information.

  • Critics have been making this argument for decades, saying that audiences themselves are the product when media sell advertising. But Cook’s comments were controversial, with some arguing that ad-supported services also benefit consumers.

  • Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook disagreed with Cook, saying that paying for a service does not mean you are aligned with the company or that your data and privacy are protected. He implied Apple also collects and uses customer data.

  • However, Apple does not rely on advertising and monetizing customer data the way companies like Facebook and Google do. Apple makes money by selling premium hardware, software, and services. Cook argued that collecting and selling personal information is wrong.

  • Cook’s speech highlighted the conflict between two very different business models: one that sees customer data and attention as the product, and one that sees customers as the actual paying customers. There is a debate over which model is more ethical and which will dominate in the future.

In summary, Tim Cook’s speech brought to light the ongoing rivalry between technology companies over different strategies for making money: either by selling access to customer data and attention, or by selling premium products and services directly to customers. His comments reflected the view that ad-supported media treat audiences as a product to be sold, rather than as customers to serve. However, others argue that ad-supported services also benefit consumers with free content and services. Cook’s speech added fuel to the debate over data privacy and the competing visions for the future of technology.

  • Tim Cook criticized companies like Facebook and Google for violating users’ privacy and degrading their experience in order to maximize advertising revenue.
  • Shortly after, Apple released an update that allowed adblocking on iPhones and iPads. This dealt a major blow to advertisers and publishers who relied on mobile ads.
  • Adblocking apps became hugely popular, with up to 200 million Americans using them. Advertisers condemned the practice, but users and advocates argued that advertising and tracking had gotten out of control.
  • Apple’s move hurt Google in particular, since Google relies so heavily on ads and wasn’t able to provide as good of an experience on Android due to that dependence. Google is now facing the problems it predicted would affect other ad-based companies.
  • New technologies like smartphones and virtual reality feel like extensions of our bodies, so people want to be able to trust them. Advertisers will have to be careful as technology gets more intimate.
  • For some, recent developments like ad-free streaming services and adblocking make it feel like the age of the attention merchants is ending. But advertising has been declared dead before, only to come back stronger. Its future remains uncertain.

The key themes here are:

  1. A growing backlash against excessive advertising and tracking, especially on mobile devices.

  2. Apple dealt a major blow to advertisers by allowing adblocking, in part to improve user experience but also to hurt Google.

  3. As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, people increasingly demand better experiences and more privacy. Advertisers must adapt.

  4. Though some think advertising’s power is waning, it has proven resilient in the past. Its future is hard to predict.

  • The attention industry, like any industry, needs constant growth, so it is constantly exploiting our attention and giving us less in return. Periodic backlashes against this are necessary and inevitable. More regulation may be needed to curb the industry’s worst excesses.

  • The most urgent issue is not how the attention industry should operate but where and when. Our society has failed to regulate where and when commercial activity can intrude into our lives. We used to have more limits on this based on tradition, technology, and religious practices. Now individualism and technology have eroded many of these limits, allowing constant commercial exploitation of our attention.

  • A “human reclamation project” is needed to reclaim our attention and mental space. This could involve individuals making changes like setting aside time to unplug from technology and limiting time with the attention industry. It could also involve reclaiming physical spaces like classrooms, offices, and homes. This is difficult but necessary given how the attention industry has conditioned us.

  • The costs of failing to reclaim our attention are high, including lack of focus and productivity, and a society conditioned to constant distraction and interruption. The attention industry’s goals are at odds with most people’s personal goals. Reclaiming our attention is necessary to have a future free of propaganda and mindless consumerism. Our attention determines our life experiences, so we must scrutinize how we bargain it away and sometimes refuse to bargain at all.

  • Overall, the key point is that we must recognize the value of our attention and act to reclaim ownership over our experiences of living in order to shape our future. The attention industry has come to determine how we live our lives, but we can resist its influence. Regulation, individual action, and collective action are all needed. Our attention and experiences are too precious to give away cheaply or thoughtlessly.

Claude Hopkins was a pioneering advertising executive in the early twentieth century known for developing innovative techniques that are still used today. He started out as a bookkeeper but was given the opportunity to write advertising copy for Bissell Carpet Sweepers. The subsequent success of his Christmas ad campaign led him to focus on advertising full-time.

Hopkins’s approach to advertising was based on providing specific facts and details about a product to give the impression of expertise and sincerity. This “reason-why” style of advertising was very different from the exaggerated claims common at the time. Hopkins believed that persuasive yet honest advertising could be a force for good, educating consumers and improving public health. However, his advertising for patent medicines and pseudoscientific health products also demonstrates the potential for unscrupulous advertisers to mislead the public.

Hopkins emphasized the importance of scientific testing and measurement in advertising. He pioneered split-run testing, where two versions of an ad were run simultaneously to determine which was most effective. He also recorded and analyzed various metrics to optimize campaigns. This data-driven philosophy was key to his success and influence on modern advertising.

Though his career began in an era of growing mass media and consumer culture, Hopkins’s techniques have endured because they tap into basic human psychology. His compelling “reason-why” style and authoritative tone command attention and convince readers of a product’s merits. By arousing emotions and desires in consumers, Hopkins demonstrated the immense power of persuasive advertising to shape attitudes and behavior. His seminal work set the stage for advertising to become a dominant force of the twentieth century.

In summary, Claude Hopkins played a pivotal role in the early development of modern advertising through his innovative techniques, rigorous methods, and understanding of human motivation. His timeless strategies have had an immense and lasting influence on advertising, for better and for worse. Though controversial at times, Hopkins’s contributions as an “alchemist of advertising” were instrumental in popularizing and professionalizing the practice.

  • Snake oil originally referred to oil from Chinese water snakes used as a remedy for joint inflammation. After Chinese immigrants brought it to the U.S., Americans tried to mimic it with rattlesnake oil. Clark Stanley promoted rattlesnake oil as a cure-all without acknowledging its Chinese origins.

  • Lord Kitchener led a propaganda campaign to recruit soldiers for World War I. He used posters and speeches to appeal to patriotism and duty. The campaign was very successful, recruiting over 2.5 million volunteers between 1914 and 1915.

  • The British government used propaganda to maintain public support for the war. It exaggerated German atrocities and promoted the idea that Britain was defending weaker nations. The government also censored news reports to control information.

  • George Creel led the U.S. Committee on Public Information, which used propaganda to drum up American support for joining World War I. The committee used speeches, posters, newspapers, and films to portray Germany as an aggressive enemy and link the war to American ideals like freedom and democracy.

  • Early 20th-century propaganda campaigns made emotive appeals and spread misinformation to manipulate public opinion. But they were also open and transparent attempts to educate and persuade citizens. Modern propaganda is often more covert and misleading.

  • The British and U.S. propaganda campaigns helped justify World War I, which resulted in enormous loss of life. But they also reflected the era’s ideals of patriotism, duty, and humanitarianism.

George Washington Hill took over American Tobacco Company and the Lucky Strike brand in 1925. Under his leadership and working with advertising agency Lord & Thomas, Lucky Strike became the leading cigarette brand in the United States. Hill was an innovative marketer who spent lavishly on advertising, up to $20 million in 1931 alone.

A key to Lucky Strike’s success was the tagline “It’s Toasted,” which highlighted a process that improved the taste of tobacco. The campaign focused on the quality, flavor, and health benefits of Lucky Strike cigarettes. Advertisements also incorporated celebrity endorsements, including opera singer Helen Jepson, to convey a glamorous image of the brand.

The “It’s Toasted” campaign was created by Albert Lasker and the copywriter Claude C. Hopkins. It helped Lucky Strike triple its sales in just two years. The innovative and extravagant marketing campaign, combined with a high-quality product, allowed Lucky Strike to dominate the tobacco market for decades. The brand peaked in the mid-1930s with a 42% share of the cigarette market.

The summary touches on the key elements of Lucky Strike’s success including leadership under George Washington Hill, the influential “It’s Toasted” ad campaign, celebrity endorsements, and a high-quality product. The combination of these factors allowed Lucky Strike to become the leading cigarette brand for years.

Singers including “ torch singers who work the night club circuits and others who work “matinee stroll through the stages, screen, and opera. Their careers depend on the condition of their voices. The brand Luck Strike claimed that their cigarettes were gentle on singers’ throats due to the “toasting process” which removed harsh irritants. They sent samples to physicians in the mid-1920s and published the results claiming medical proof. However, there was little evidence to actually support these claims.

Luck Strike further claimed that the accounting firm Lybrand, Ross Bros and Montgomery had “checked and certified” their figures, adding credibility. This was an early example of “spin” in public relations and marketing.

Public relations pioneer Edward Bernays orchestrated a publicity stunt in 1929, employing young women to smoke Luckies during the Easter parade to challenge taboos against women smoking in public. This helped make smoking fashionable and acceptable for women. The ad slogan “Reach for a Lucky instead” persuaded consumers to choose Luckies.

Tobacco companies increased their ad spending in the late 1920s. J. Walter Thompson’s ad agency and Stanley Resor were instrumental in developing innovative marketing for Luck Strike, targeting women. President Coolidge spoke about the importance of advertising to commerce.

However, critics argued that advertising manipulated consumers and encouraged overconsumption and waste. Stuart Chase and F.J. Schlink’s 1936 book, “Your Money’s Worth” blistered business practices and the effects of advertising. Early consumer advocates worked to educate consumers and push for reforms. The ad industry responded by disparaging critics and touting the benefits of commercial advertising.

So in summary, while innovative marketing and spin helped popularize smoking, especially among women in the 1920s, it also fueled criticism about the manipulative power and negative impacts of advertising on society. The battle between advocates of commercial advertising and its critics would continue for decades.

• In the early 1920s, radio broadcasting was still in its infancy but growing rapidly. Advertisers began to recognize its potential for reaching mass audiences.

• Pepsodent toothpaste was an early radio advertiser that helped popularize the medium. Pepsodent sponsored The Amos ’n’ Andy Show, which became a hugely popular radio program in the late 1920s and 1930s.

• The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) launched in 1926 and helped coordinate radio programming and advertising on a national scale. NBC president Merlin Aylesworth saw radio as a way to sell radio sets and components.

• Daytime radio dramas, known as “soap operas,” targeted female audiences and were a popular vehicle for advertising household goods and hygiene products. Irna Phillips created some of the earliest soap operas.

• A study in 1932 found that women, who were the primary shoppers for most households, were the audience most influenced by and reached through radio. Advertisers increasingly aimed their marketing at this demographic.

• The growth of national radio networks and popular programming helped propel a rise in nighttime listening. Prime-time evening hours became a coveted segment for advertisers to reach very large audiences.

• Constant repetition of slogans and messages in radio advertising helped popularize new products and shape consumer habits. Pepsodent’s “You’ll wonder where the yellow went” jingle, frequently repeated on the air, helped cement twice-yearly dental checkups as an American custom.

• Regulations were limited in radio’s early days. There were no restrictions on the amount of advertising or product claims. Some exaggerated or misleading ads prompted later policy changes.

The key factors driving changes in radio and advertising were the new national networks, the quest for large audiences and sponsor dollars, and a recognition of women as primary consumers and shoppers for households. Prime-time evening programming and big-budget variety shows and dramas represented the pinnacle of these trends in the 1930s.

Here is a summary of the key elements from the chapter:

  • William S. Paley built the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) into a radio and television powerhouse. He was known as “the Prince” for his lavish lifestyle and authoritarian control over CBS.

  • Paley employed audience research and ratings to determine programming. He used these metrics to sell advertising, which was the economic base of commercial broadcasting. The Audimeter device allowed for precise measurement of a program’s audience.

  • Edward R. Murrow was a famous radio and television journalist for CBS. He produced high-quality news documentaries like Hear It Now and See It Now that brought attention to social issues. His coverage of Senator Joseph McCarthy helped to curb McCarthyism.

  • CBS and the other major networks in the United States had an immense amount of influence as mass media during this era. They could propagate propaganda and shape public opinion. Critics argue they had too much control and power over information.

  • Like radio, television was adept at capturing attention and simulating a sense of intimacy or “electric companionship.” Critics contend that television discourages critical thinking and reading. Supporters counter that television educates and spreads culture. There are arguments on both sides.

  • David Ogilvy noted that the most important words in television advertising are “ neue and ‘now’” because of how television works on the emotions and demands attention in the present moment. Television advertising relies heavily on emotional appeals and repetition.

The chapter covers the rise of television and its use as a tool for both information and persuasion in the mid-20th century United States. The immense popularity and influence of CBS and its leaders like Paley and Murrow are discussed. The central role of advertising and ratings in commercial broadcasting is also explained. Arguments for and against the effects of television on society are explored.

  • Eugene McDonald, the founder of Zenith Electronics, hated commercials and believed they were annoying. He spent money in the 1940s to support a commercial-free radio station.

  • In 1955, Zenith introduced the first wireless TV remote control, the Flash-Matic. It allowed viewers to change the channel without getting up from their seats. Some thought this device would give viewers more control over their TV watching.

  • The media theorist Marshall McLuhan believed new media technologies like the TV remote would change our relationship to media. He said “the medium is the message.”

  • In 1957, Vance Packard published The Hidden Persuaders, which explored how advertisers were using psychological research to manipulate consumers. The book reflected growing concerns about the power of advertising and consumer culture.

  • The game show scandals of the late 1950s, including accusations that the show Dotto was rigged, damaged public trust in TV. Critics argued that TV had too much power to manipulate public opinion.

  • The Canadian philosopher Jacques Ellul argued in his 1973 book Propaganda that modern propaganda techniques, including those used in advertising, were creating a world where “there are no longer any opinions, only reflexes conditioned by propaganda.”

  • Some saw new media technologies and the rise of advertising as threatening individual freedom and autonomy. They believed TV viewers were becoming passive and easily manipulated.

The summary outlines several events and ideas from the postwar era expressing a growing concern with the power of media, advertising, and television to influence individuals and undermine their freedom of thought. Several new technologies, media events, and critiques reflected a fear that TV was exerting too much control over public opinion.

The summary is as follows:

  • Author discusses sociologist Robinson who developed a computer model to segment US population into 40 lifestyle clusters based on demographics.
  • The clusters were used by companies to target products and marketing. They revealed diversity in how Americans live.
  • Two clusters are described in detail: “Urban Uptown” (young, educated, liberal) and “Shotguns and Pickups” (rural, conservative).
  • The models and resulting marketing strategies contributed to political and cultural divides as companies tailored content to specific lifestyle clusters.
  • Example of Diet Coke being launched to target “Urban Uptown” cluster based on their preferences.
  • Overall, market segmentation and targeted marketing in the 1970s contributed to fragmentation of shared experiences.

The key points are:

  1. Development of geodemographic segmentation models that divided US population into lifestyle clusters

  2. Use of models by companies for targeted marketing, product development

  3. Description of two contrasting clusters, “Urban Uptown” and “Shotguns and Pickups”

  4. Argument that the resulting targeted marketing contributed to cultural and political divisions

  5. Example of Diet Coke being launched to specifically target the “Urban Uptown” cluster

  6. Conclusion that this kind of market segmentation led to fragmentation of shared experiences.

• Email was invented in the early 1970s and popularized by services like AOL in the 1980s and 1990s. AOL’s easy-to-use interface and chat rooms attracted millions of users.

• AOL pioneered many now-common online practices, like chat rooms, instant messaging, and aggressive marketing. AOL sent out hundreds of millions of free trial CDs and diskettes in the mail.

• AOL’s popularity was also fueled by its content, like news articles, online events, and an early web directory. AOL had many community features that allowed people to create personal profiles and share photos.

• AOL’s business model depended on keeping users within its walled garden. It charged hourly fees for access to its own content and services. AOL was slow to adopt unlimited Internet access and lost users as the open web grew.

• AOL eventually transitioned to a full Internet service provider, offering broadband access and an early web portal. It later merged with Time Warner but the merger was unsuccessful. AOL’s legacy lives on through features like chat rooms and the email domain.

• AOL demonstrated how the Internet could be used to build community and share information on a mass scale. Its easy-to-use interface introduced millions of people to online communication and content. AOL’s influence lives on in many of today’s most popular web services and communities.

Forbes focuses on behavioural finance, which examines psychological influences on financial markets and decision making. The field recognizes that human beings do not always behave rationally and objectively with money.

Klein notes that in a Ponzi scheme, early investors are paid off using money from more recent investors. The perpetrator diverts new investments to pay dividends to earlier investors instead of legitimate profits from business activities. This makes the Ponzi scheme unsustainable and destined to collapse.

The SEC complaint accuses Kelly of running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of over $11 million. Kelly allegedly misappropriated funds and issued false account statements to hide losses and project an image of successful trading.

According to Newsweek, many believed that O.J. Simpson would not be convicted of murder despite strong evidence against him. His celebrity status and charisma led some to think he could escape consequences. This illustrated the influence celebrities had attained in society.

Diamond notes the power vacuum at Time Inc. after the ouster of its president. The company was slow to adapt to social changes in the 1960s and 1970s. Time’s failure to put a woman on the cover of Time magazine for over 50 years reflected its conservatism.

Brinkley examines the influence of publisher Henry Luce, who co-founded Time, Life, and Fortune. Larsen looks at narrative preaching, using stories to convey moral and spiritual messages.

Barkin studies the commercialization of TV news and its implications. Diamond examines People’s focus on celebrity gossip and human interest stories rather than news. The magazine reflected the public’s appetite for spectacle and “people who need people.”

Sumner and Wilson provide overviews of 20th-century American magazines. Celebrity culture gained prominence, as reflected in People magazine’s success. Rojek examines the rise of celebrity status to a position akin to religion in Western culture. Celebrities serve psychological and social functions once filled by religious figures.

Horton and Wohl propose the concept of “parasocial interaction” - the illusions of personal relationships with media figures. Audiences form bonds with TV personalities, like friends or family, through repeated exposure.

The established media capitalized on new opportunities, including new distribution platforms and content formats. People met demand for celebrity news. MTV leveraged new technology and shaped youth culture. An American Family and The Real World pioneered reality TV by recording the drama of everyday lives.

• In the late 1990s, Bill Gates declared that “content is king” and argued that the companies that would dominate the digital age would be those that controlled the flow of content. He envisioned Microsoft facilitating and enabling access to content.

• Microsoft pursued content and media partnerships but ultimately struggled. Its efforts largely failed, as the company could not effectively shift its culture and strategy. In contrast, Google built its success by understanding that its role was to organize the world’s information, not own it.

• Blogging emerged in the late 1990s and enabled anyone to become a publisher. Early blogs focused on linking to interesting content around the web and providing commentary. Blogging represented a shift toward social, decentralized media.

• The rise of blogging and social media demonstrated the power of “organizing without organizations.” New tools allowed people to connect and work together outside of traditional power structures.

• Wikipedia represented a new model of collaborative production. It showed how decentralized groups of volunteers could create something useful, accurate, and valuable. Wikipedia’s success demonstrated the potential of networked individuals.

• The decline of print has been predicted for years, but a total demise of print has not yet occurred. While the internet has disrupted the traditional business model for print media, print still plays an important role, and some titles have found ways to establish viable online presences.

• Web 2.0 has been marked by the rise of platforms that leverage user-generated content and network effects. Companies like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have built businesses by providing platforms for individuals to create, share, and curate content. They demonstrate the commercial potential of decentralized media and culture.

The key argument is that the rise of social and decentralized media has enabled new forms of public participation and collaboration. This has disrupted traditional content companies but also created new opportunities for businesses that can harness the power of networks and user contributions. The summary outlines both the threats to established institutions as well as the benefits of a more participatory media landscape.

  • Facebook launched in 2004 at Harvard University and soon expanded to other colleges, then high schools. It became widely available to everyone in 2006.

  • Facebook’s origin story has become well known. Mark Zuckerberg created a “hot or not” ratings site called Facemash in 2003. He then created Facebook as a Harvard-only social network. It started as a way for Harvard students to connect online.

  • Facebook’s popularity spread through word of mouth and media coverage. As it expanded to more schools, students wanted their friends at other schools to have access. Facebook’s exclusivity and allure of needing a .edu email to join made it popular.

  • Early competitors like Friendster and Myspace already had the opportunity to become a mainstream social network but missed their chance. Facebook succeeded where others failed by focusing on exclusivity and starting at elite schools.

  • Facebook’s design with profiles, status updates, likes, news feeds, and friending made social networking engaging and interactive. The ability to connect with friends on an intimate level made Facebook sticky.

  • Concerns emerged early on about privacy, data sharing, and internet addiction. But the benefits of connection and fear of missing out kept people using Facebook.

  • Facebook became a global company and Mark Zuckerberg became the youngest self-made billionaire. But concerns remain over data privacy, “fake news,” and social media addiction.

That’s a high-level summary of the key points and events in the rise of Facebook according to the article. Let me know if you would like me to explain anything in the summary in more detail.

Here’s a summary of the key points from the chapter:

•Rex Sorgatz coined the term “microfame” in 2008 to describe internet fame gained through social media, blogs, and viral content. Microfame is fleeting, niche, and gained from a narrow audience.

•Microfame has challenged traditional notions of celebrity and fame. Anyone with an internet connection now has a platform to become famous to some degree. This has led to new kinds of DIY celebrities and influencers.

•The fourth screen (the smartphone) and platforms like Instagram have enabled new forms of microfame and self-promotion. They make it easy for anyone to curate an online persona and gain popularity and status.

•However, microfame is often shallow and can negatively impact well-being and self-esteem. The constant drive for likes, hearts, and comments can lead to anxiety, body image issues, and other problems, especially in teens and young adults.

•Some influencers are now pushing back on the culture of self-promotion they helped create. They argue social platforms are designed to fostering narcissism and envy in the pursuit of microfame and popularity.

•Still, for those able to gain substantial followings, microfame can be a pathway to money, power, and opportunities. Brands are eager to partner with influencers to reach their audiences. The most popular Instagram stars and YouTubers now make a living from sponsorships, product placement, and other deals.

•Microfame represents both the democratization of celebrity as well as the triumph of entertainment and self-promotion over other values like privacy, thoughtfulness, and depth. It highlights both the possibilities and the limitations of today’s digital culture.

Author Photo

About Matheus Puppe