May 8, 2023

What is Attention Arbitrage in Marketing?

by marc

In a constantly evolving digital world, attracting and retaining consumers' attention is a major challenge, especially for small and medium-sized businesses with limited resources.

Attention arbitrage, a concept both simple and powerful, is becoming an essential tool in the toolbox of modern marketers.

This article explores how attention arbitrage is applied in different contexts and how it can be used by SMEs to create value and meaningfully connect with their customers.

The term "Arbitrage" is often associated with the financial world, where it involves taking advantage of a price difference on a financial product across different markets to create additional financial value.

However, in an economy where the value for businesses is no longer purely measured in financial terms, but increasingly relies on users' attention to a brand or products, the notion of attention arbitrage is becoming more and more popular.

But what exactly is it? Attention arbitrage can be viewed from different angles.

From the perspective of large social media platforms like Facebook or Google, attention arbitrage involves collecting and selling attention.

The goal of these platforms is to sell our attention, measured in time spent on the platform, as advertising inventory to businesses. They thus make money by selling our attention to advertisers.

Attention arbitrage can also be examined from the company’s perspective. They will try to grab the attention of potential customers by creating and sharing valuable content on social media.

In this case, time and resources (human, financial) are invested by businesses to attract consumer attention.

Finally, attention arbitrage can also be achieved by detecting trends early on.

On social networks, like TikTok for example, it can be very advantageous to join the platform early, as organic reach is often very strong in the launch and growth phases of these platforms.

Businesses that establish themselves early can gain long-term advantages in terms of attention.

The term “attention arbitrage” has been widely popularised by Gary Vaynerchuck (@garyvee), an entrepreneur, author, and influencer.

Gary Vee has built a global community of several million followers through attention arbitrage.

But he is also a successful entrepreneur who runs one of the largest digital agencies in the world.

He therefore knows the subject not only as an "influencer" but also from a business perspective, and he has found that companies are often seeking reach and impressions rather than attention.

Today, reach (the number of people reached by a post/ad) is still used as a metric for measuring the success of marketing campaigns.

This may have been relevant at the end of the last century when there was no Internet and social media. Back then, people actually "watched" advertising!

The problem is that nowadays, in an increasingly digital world where we spend most of our time on our smartphones and where new, more exciting content is just a click away, reach doesn't mean much anymore.

Social network users scroll through content without really seeing a post or an ad. This means that a post can have reach without having an impact.

In this context, reach is no longer a way to measure the effectiveness of communication.

The difficulty lies more in the ability of brands and their content to capture users' attention. 

Without attention, the message cannot be communicated!

Creating content is therefore no longer enough. Brands have to create interesting content.

For businesses, this means not only understanding their customers' needs, wants, and expectations but also building a real relationship with them in order to provide what is expected.

For small and medium-sized businesses seeking to navigate the complex landscape of digital marketing with limited resources, attention arbitrage is a new way to think about marketing and content.

As we have seen, this concept goes beyond mere reach and aims to establish a true connection with customers through an intimate understanding of their needs.

Then, by investing wisely in creating quality content (which is usually done by testing different formats and messaging) and recognizing opportunities in emerging trends, SMEs can not only win consumers' attention but also build lasting and profitable relationships.

This text was originally written in German by the author and published in the book "Marketing Buzzwords Debunked" available on


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