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tv   After Words  CSPAN  December 25, 2016 8:00am-9:01am EST

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.. discusses his book "the attention merchants" with cnbc jon fortt. >> host: cam, the attention merchants, you take is on quite a journey in this book, historical perspective going way
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back to the early days of newspapers. what inspired you to dive in this way and go so far back to track how our attention is getting captured? >> guest: i believe our presence is informed by history. it just came to me, writing this book are the reason for writing this book is i started noticing how much of our lives is driven by ad models. it used to be just the media, newspapers. all of a sudden google, facebook, all of the internet sites. i think i had this experience which may be other people have had as well where i increasingly found i would sit down at my computer and maybe try and write one email and then four hours would go by, like in the casino, called the casino effect. i thought our presence has gotten strange. this ad model where the idea to
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result your audience to other people as opposed to have them buy the product itself seemed to be counterintuitive. i started thinking like when did this really start? who invented this? that led me on a search and i had kind of thought, maybe it was roman times or something but it turned out and started more or less the 19th century in new york and so that's what made me go back. it was like the surge for the beginning of the river nile. where did advertising come from. >> host: why was it then in new york do you think? >> guest: it's a great question. i think it was a number of factors. you started having cities that were really large and enough population that they could address to a newspaper advertisement and get some results. i think it is also a lot to do obviously with the printing press and the spread of our
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newspapers. newspapers before the advertising supported newspapers were more expensive. they were expensive at the time. it was just sort of an entrepreneurial spirit in this country that drove it. these things all added up about the same time to great what we now call public opinion or mass media advertising base media. >> host: early on in the book you introduce this idea there are occasional revolts against the advertising culture, the methods that advertisers are using to capture our attention, times when presley go too far. how many of these revolts would you say there have been and do you think we're close to another one? >> guest: i think there's been, depends on how you count, at least five or six revolts. sometimes they are in individual errors or city so it's hard to know how to count them but the really big wins nationwide, the depression, really big ones in the '60s.
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depends on how you count the whole beginning of the internet. i think we are in one now. >> host: in the '60s, many of our viewers will remember the '60s. what do you turn as the advertising revolt that happened then? >> guest: i would put it in timothy leary phrase, tune in, turn on -- i'm going to forget his lingo. there was a sense in the '60s which many of our listeners or viewers may remember that advertising was the devil, commercialism had room in television, had ruined radio. it was time to get away from the big corporate speakers and spend more time with family, sitting in circles with guitars, with each other. the basic tenets of hippie dem met turning away. timothy leary, i spoke about them at the beginning, he really believed the point of the
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counterculture was the move away from commercial sources information and advertising worst of all and move us towards a sort of spiritual direction. he used a lot of ellis did you get there which didn't count on. he believed it, this was a technology that that will deliver us from commercials and advertising. turned out to be more odd, didn't take off quite as much as he thought. but they really were about an intentional revolution. to get back as to how these revolts happened, sorry to get into it but i would just say, advertising has never really been that popular. it hasn' has always been to pics invented and one of the reasons is it is an industry that is harvesting your own mind, your own attention. so it is by its nature always intrusiveintrusive, always a lie distracting, always trying to do something you would necessarily want to do otherwise. if you going to buy something otherwise you don't need
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advertising. it always is at the edge and does provoke these revolts. the book as an early example in france, very interesting. when you think of the posters, not a big deal to have a poster but in france at the turn of the 20 century people said we have enough bu of his posters, theree too many. because they are french they said these are ugly so they should be banned. so france passed a very expensive regulation, still in place, not france but paris, i would posters could be in the city. which made one reason when you go to paris it still is a very beautiful place. it is severely limited where you can advertise. >> host: so you start with newspapers in the 19th century, and then radio. at first people think radio, not going to be a great medium for advertising but they were wrong.
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what happened? >> guest: so people thought there's no way radio could be an advertising medium. first of all it is too precious scientific achievement for us to waste on advertising too much. no one will ever listen to it. people also thought based on the failure of ad supported theaterstheaters, so there was d in the 1910s where a chain of theaters tried this idea that the movie would be free but you would watch ads during the breaks and at the beginning and that would be how they pay for those. those failed. they thought it's not going to make any money either. so radio, first i guess eight, nine years or something was more or less i won't say commercial free but noncommercial. the very first big hit that radio could put together was at the amos and andy show which originally was a chicago show but eventually came to nbc. the idea of the show, two white
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guys speaking what they considered to be negro accents. one of them had grown up in the south, and they had this ongoing plotplot, it was 15 minutes evey at 7 p.m., these two black men who were new to harlem and exploring life. they were kind of rough stereotypes we would say nowadays, but for whatever reason, amos and andy caught on like nothing ever before in the game the first must-see, sorry, must listen rated. they in some ways invented prime time by themselves. even schedules were rearranged. movie theaters started playing the show in a movie theater before the movie because they realize people otherwise wouldn't go to the movie theater. based on the activities guys were hilarious, establish this ritual of prime time which in such an effect on our lives or has had for the last century.
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>> host: is that the time that it was, the same time of day we now think of as being prime time television? >> guest: about the same. after dinner, 7:00. i guess is slightly earlier than but i think it was more this sort of ritualistic coaxing us into this idea that your evening would be spent with the radio, later the television. that idea would a lot further in the 1950s when television actually appeared and you had "i love lucy" and ed sullivan show and a big show for every evening. but amos and andy which at the time the ratings were weird at the time but had an estimate of 40-50 million viewers every single day. really establish something. it's kind of amazing. imagine one show with 50 million every single day. that's like half the super bowl or at the time like a super bowl everyday one show. it was an incredible media success. >> host: i would've called you out for saying viewers but you
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met listeners but you could very well have meant the viewers because one of the things that researchers noticed at the time was about people would stop what you're doing and actually look at the radio while this was on, unlike how they behaved when music was on. why was it that, and what does it indicate about potential of radio to capture attention? >> guest: this is a great point. with amos and andy, people were gathered around the radio listening. it was able to outcompete the dinner conversation or other, even people play music at home. before that, radio had been sort of a background. maybe there was some, is in the background, jazz or classical music quietly playing. this was something different and the suggested, abc and later cbs said, we have the audience in their homes listening and utterly opening a portal of judgment to you.
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this is a perfect way to reach your customers. and, in fact, it was. >> host: the keywords that there were in their home. >> guest: that's right. so before radio the idea of advertising two people so blatantly within their home was something that just came in, seemed absurd to a lot of people. no one is going to tolerate that kind of thing. the difference between inside and outside private public was i think more pronounced. but somehow unbidden, or not unbidden but somehow brought in voluntarily and that's how it always ends up happening even in our time, advertisers have penetrated into the inner sanctum with basically the idea that black people are funny. later on right after the did amos and andy, the successor, sort of interesting, was the goldberg which was a show premised on the idea that jewish people are funny. then another comedy. then there was an irish show.
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all of the early captured attention in the united states, protestant majority, was based on the idea that i irish, black or jewish people regarding and that's how the west was won or how the home was conquered. >> host: clearly with mood far beyond those ideas of what's funny. perhaps not. hit the rewind button for me on tim wu. tell me what was your first experience that you recall with mass media. what captured your attention as a kid? >> guest: that is a great question. the other day i was sitting there and i realized, i had memorized every single one of the sugar cereal jingles. i was thinking frosted lucky charms, magically delicious. the honeycomb kid. snap crackle pop. i was infatuated as a child with
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advertising. i think marshall mcluhan once said when you read, watch tv you will realize there's much more effort put into the advertisements and there are into the programs. as a child i had a particularly, for some reason, at that and sit-coms which are popular at the time, threes company, as a child some reason i guess i was a little more of an adolescent, esther carter. whatever it was, i would watch it. -- mr. cotter it was interesting because today we were talking about revolts. most people i know do anything say can to try to avoid advertising. but when i was a kid and made a lot of our audience, sit there and sit to the advertisements and that's the way it was. in the 19 \50{l1}s{l0}\'50{l1}s{l0} people would talk about how the watched television. they would turn off all the lights, not everybody but turn out the lights and very patiently sit there with all the ads and consume it absolutely.
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this was before remote control. today it's the opposite. if there's an ad i would switch channels or turnoff. it's led to our current lifestyle. >> host: so you remember the jingles. i assume you were probably watching some cartoons in there somewhere, to. that's where they would put the commercial. how did your parents respond to the demands that came as a result of the watching of commercials? >> guest: my mother, she held firm against sugar cereal. i remember being disappointed. i also remember, as a youngster, there was this character like a red bird like a character, you know him as witty woodstock that other kids were talking about. i had no idea who it was so i pleaded to my mother i lacked basic media literacy.
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everybody knew this -- we didn't have cable. we were broadcast people. answer all the good cartoons were on cable of course. there was no question. so yeah, i basically fell for whatever it was, what passed for children's program at the time which was cartoons and sugar cereal commercials. i also watch "sesame street" which i love to. "sesame street" itself that mockups of advertisements. remember it would be like today is sponsored by the letter a or the number five or something. they use advertising content to get children interested in learning, and that worked. at least in my memory. it was, in fact, better than the other shows. but that was my childhood. i was raised in this situation just like everyone else. the last thing i will say about that. i didn't realize this at the
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time but the rituals like the transformers, i don't know if remember the robots. >> host: sure. >> guest: i can think of them at the time as advertising but if you think a minute, of course there advertisements for the toy and, of course, they made us go by the toys. the fact when watching advertisements on top of advertisements, the same with mtv, which was the video one day it dawned on me that those videos were actually trying to get you to want to buy the album or make us on popular. so i guess it was just a steady stream of advertising. maybe that's why i wrote the book. >> host: but there's at this idea that advertising to children, and this idea still around, is fundamentally different from advertising to adults. there are certain lines that are not supposed to be crossed. there are certain rules about the sorts of images.
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"sesame street" mentioned, brings it to my because the idea that was a protected space, kind of like the home perhaps was a protected space before radio got mature. is that still the case with children? are there new rules for the road? >> guest: i think things have gotten a little better. then they used to be in the 1980s. this continued his up and down. i think there is broad sense among scientists and pediatricians that not only our children more susceptible to advertising, but it's screen time is not necessarily good for children. i think it was a last couple of days the american association of pediatrician said you should limit your children to no more than one hour a day of television. by that role i soften other people in the generation already had our minds blown completely. it's amazing we can function anymore.
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i think children are generally understood to be more credulous. you certainly absorb, if you absorb a brand as a child, this is one of the reasons branding in particular has always been or brands has always been particularly focus on children, is because brands association from young age, i'm not a neuroscientist, straightforward law dictates you, coca-cola, heinz, cadillac, bmw, once you have it in your head as something of quality or value, it will stick. my daughter who is three recognizes delta airlines,, skype, she recognizes all these various logos. she uses the word facetime. i think there's always been a concern. the extent to which is regulated overseeing depends on the administration. i think things in the '50s and the '80s were sort of an all-time low in terms of how much oversight there was, sort of everything goes and i think
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there's more attention paid to what you how much advertising chill today. on the otheon the other hand, so on a bit, there is been an in the last half decade of advertising in schools. maybe that's something you want to talk about is about because there is been such a decrease in public funding, some public schools especially in poor areas have become so desperate to have started selling out the inside of the school for advertising purposes. you can see pictures, some schools in minnesota, selling california, where the very halls, the lockers are totally covered in banner ads. you walk through school, it's a constant advertising experience. >> host: how well does that work? >> guest: i don't think they make much money. the schools need millions of dollars. the companies seem happy with it. the advertisers seem happy with
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it. how well does it work for saving schools? i don't think they make that much money. they need millions and they're getting hundreds of thousands in advertising revenue but maybe at the margins. it goes back to the idea of there being certain spaces that were once sort of sacred that are being increasingly commercialized on the edges. one of the things i read about doing research for this book, another space you think it would never be advertisement is churches. it's not all the time but there are certainly efforts taken by hollywood film makers to try to put product placement in the sermons. so, for example, the man of steel when it came out, superman movies, they had a lot of screenings for pastors. they had the sermon provided, jesus first superhero. sometimes different contests,
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mail in that you use the name of the movie in your sermon and we will put you into a draw for money or free trip. there's even an effort to get church audience. a lot of the sacred spaces have become challenged. >> host: right. and it's interesting, you mentioned in the book that some of the early language around advertising and the idea of capturing attention was something that churches really used to. it's interesting, too, that there's this move within even religious organizations in some cases to adopt the same sorts of attention grabbing methods that have now been pioneered in the broader society. >> guest: if you want to talk about deep history, lengthy history, many of the modern attention-getting techniques belong to organized religion. the word propaganda was invented by the catholic church. church.
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i believe the jesuits, and it was the sense of propagating the faith, part of the counterreformation. when we talked broadly about the game of trying to fight for attention, trying to make audiences on a regular basis pay some attention to a message, certainly organized religion got there first. one of the themes of my book, and i think think the theme for the last 200 years, is in this sense that our consciousness or our myspace, what we think about, was something that organized religion was the most focused on for most of human history and in the last 200 years or so government through propaganda, government propaganda and then commerce or industry throug to advertisit in on the game. another way of describing what i'm trying to discuss in my book is a long-term, let's say
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contest or competition between organized religion, government and industry all of them want to get at this thing called our time, attention, consciousness. the bottom line is that churches and other organized religion have been losing, is that one of the reasons that they are adopting these techniques, modern advertising techniques, is they have to compete. they can expect people to show up just because we feel bound. they are in intense competition. churches are competing with sunday football for one example. there's a lot of stuff on your weekend and they are in a desperate competition. i think also one reason churches have become a little more here's what's in it for you, come to church and you will feel good, feel prosperous. i'm not an expert on religion, but my sense is that the older i did was you better come to
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church or you are going to face eternal damnation, more contemporary idea, come to church, i space to relax, maybe you will become rich from the prosperity series. like here's what's in it for you. >> host: follows a similar trajectory to how you talk about advertising developing from this role, cure what ails you and save you from death, two and will help you live a better life. but i want to turn, you mentioned government, and you bring up in the book that government was an early innovator in marketing and capturing attention. the uk in particular, britain, versus germany, was able to capture mass attention and get people to do something that had not been done before on a mass scale. what exactly was that achievement and how did it come about?
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>> guest: that achievement is otherwise described as world war i propaganda, in which great britain was the inventor of mass system eyes propaganda, and the master of it in the first world war. britain had this particular problem that caused it to invest so deeply in propaganda. unlike other countries they didn't use conscription, at least at first and world war i. there it is august of 1914, great britain has declared war on the german empire. they had an army, depends on a estimated, 100,000, maybe 200,000, the german imperial army was her million people they'd overrun i don't know how many countries already. so here's britain, no army, many other soldiers were overseas anyway, and they needed to do something. and so they come up with the first systemic mass recruitment campaign pursued through
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posters, leaflets, marches, other tactics with all the resources of government, and it is incredibly successful. you are asking people to volunteer for an army where, within a short time, it became fairly clear that you had a pretty good chance of being killed or dismembered or permanent injury if you went to the front. nonetheless, they managed to recruit almost within months 1 million people. ultimately i can't remember the exact statistics by someone but maybe a quarter or half of the british population was in, the british male population in the armed forces during world war i. industry, and part of this book there's a conversation between religion, industry and government. so industry, before world war i, kind of skeptical of advertising. it was seen as something used to
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sell medicine low-grade products, brushes. the way people sell vacuum cleaners. >> host: use a medicine, snake oil? >> guest: actual snake oil, right. more than one type. competing snake oils in fact. snake oil, longevity potions. that has been the domain of advertising. it wasn't something, respectable company was going to invest in. but britain and in the united states as well with whole hog with her advertising. when it was so incredibly successful, industry took notice and said this stuff seems to work and on top of that it's been legitimized by the government usage. so the real birth of advertising is in the 1920s with the birth of the big ad agencies, the growth of madison avenue, also london, paris, other places as the center of the industry,
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which is dedicated to the systematic development of advertisements over and over that will keep you buying stuff. that's how that -- >> host: is it a coincidence that the '20s are the age of the rise of mainstream advertising and also women's suffrage? >> guest: that's an interesting question. well, we don't know if it's completely coincidence but we do know the appetizers in this. -- advertisers -- described the real key to success of the enterprise is the woman consumer, the lady bar as they call them. there is an effort to target, before the '20s and the 1910s, women are, advertising is just general and it's very primitive. the 1920s there is very focused, the first targeted
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advertisements which are just designed to make women into consumers and have them by. so whether or not, how that plays with suffrage movement is hard to say. a lot of the women who were advertisers were former suffragists, lady persuaders they called themselves. and in particular some of the departments, there was some advertising departments that whicwere just staffed with women only, mainly former suffragists. they emphasize the themes of individual self-actualization through purchasing decisions. so, for example, this cleaning solution will liberate you from, will liberate you from drudgery here the idea that all these, you know, i'm trying to remember some of the other copy. >> host: a soap that will make you desirable to your husband. >> guest: i'm talking about
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some of the advertisement were like, you know, freedom from the enslavement of having to cook for you has been every day. here's food. see what i mean? these are the women's liberation style advertising. there's also a lot of advertising i in the 20 directed at women which you wouldn't exactly call feminist starter a lot of shame advertising. i was looking yesterday at the old listerine advertisement which had the headline often a bridesmaid, never a bride bride. the idea was that bad breath would make no one want to marry you and you don't know it and you can forget why you keep being passed over by men, but ultimately it's because you have halitosis, new word invented in the '20s which made you undesirable. and so, therefore, the cure was listerine which previous event i think a floor cleaning substance and a battlefield disinfected or you know the brown stuff? but it became a way of getting
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people to marry basically. that was at this whole movement. what is most extreme i can talk about if you're interested is the marketing at cigarette to women as part of women's liberation. >> host: that's a really interesting thread that you have in the book, the idea that women couldn't smoke in public, and so there was a campaign embarked upon to more than double the market for cigarettes by making it socially acceptable. how did that come about? >> guest: for women to smoke in public. private was okay. if women were smoking in a restaurant, for example, she would be asked to put out her cigarette. so lucky strike in particular had the idea that if they could just get women to smoke whenever you wanted, that they could increase their market share dramatically. this was at the age as i said targeting women was all the rage. first targeted marketing.
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they did various things to try to break the taboo one of the more well-known famous efforts is that they staged a thick protester lucky strike staged, wasn't lucky strike sickly stage a protest during the easter parade -- >> host: a real protest aspect yes, but put on by lucky strike. they paid people to protest where women marched in the parade with cigarettes in which they called torches of freedom. when reporters asked why are you doing this? they said we are expressing our freedom to smoke outside like a mantra which we see as a form of liberation. the cigarette industry was not about -- this was kind of a forerunner of astroturf which are talk about here i am in washington we have a folk -- a fake protest movement for some cause. this was one of the first. >> host: so television and the
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internet dramatically raise the stakes in this attention economy. looking at today, looking at even this proposed acquisition of time warner by at&t, how does that fit into your thesis, into this idea that a cap attention and monetizing it, turning it into dollars is a prevailing business at the time? >> guest: yeah, so yo you know, at&t obviously is an incredibly wealthy company. it is more revenue than many other companies combined, but it, too, has come to think that maybe the real resource here that matters is your hold on human attention. that is, this raw time and raw
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hours spent with certain content pixel that's what the thing is the only move forward for them to make more money. the fact that want to pay $85 million t to $85 billion for time warner's property gives us a sense just how important this is. i think it is odd just how far this model has gone. if historic perspective. we started this conversation talking about the penny press, the tabloid newspapers in new york in 1830s selling for a penny. tiny, tiny sector of the economy, nobody really cared about it necessarily. then you have a spread word spreads from this business model, the attention business model, spreads first radio, then television and now we're watching every night, and then in the last 15 years, dramatically to the internet. so now it's sort of every activity, not every, but some of our activities, going to see what your friends are up to on facebook, even e-mailing, google
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maps. all these things we do day-to-day are supported by an ad model. it's kind of weird. i think a person 40 years ago would say you got to be kidding, this is all advertising? what's going on? one of the reasons i bought this book is to get at this idea, and how much can the support? can we tried everything with advertising? but there's no question in my mind, tickling everything else in our world are our economy becomes more abundant we have enough food. we have shelter. we have clothing. so the all things are not scarce anymore. the one thing that is scarce his time at attention. the one thing no one has enough of any one thing you can't expand his time and attention. and so i think the kind of contest control 160 hours we each have 160 hours a week, is 60 hours a week, is becoming more and more intense. >> host: your previous book,
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the master switch, is about this idea, and forgetting where i get this wrong, that previous modes of communication has eventually been dominated by one or two big players antenna from a detriment perhaps of society as a whole. and the internet could perhaps head down that similar path. interesting that a tnt, which was one of those dominant companies in previous there is now making moves to try to better position itself in the internet age. but i believe you wrote that book before the real rise of facebook. what do you think are the chances that the internet will be dominated as your thesis in "the master switch" one as a possibility? >> guest: when i wrote master switch a lot of it i wrote about 10 years ago. at that point the internet was understood by everyone to be so
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incredibly competitive there was no chance that one company could remain dominant for any length of time. people said google is here but it will be gone in a year or two. there's no way they're going to hold on. facebook is just kind of got started. they were a flash in the pan, there's no holding power for them. they will be gone. so my books look at history again and it suggested these patterns, long cycles. i will briefly describe it to get something you invented. they're sort of a wide open. , a wild west era where everyone is trying on different business model seeing what works. very open talk and then a consolidation into either an oligopoly or a monopoly like at&t of players. like the telephone industry once had 1000 different companies in it and now it is for, depending on how your accounting. for a long time there was just
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one. so the cycle which i would stop the internet was immune to as clearly i think him to the internet. when you look at it now, it is a handful of big companies. google, facebook, apple, microsoft and then amazon and then the list starts to trail off the we were talking about the companies that depend on the time and attention, it is really google and facebook are the big players. so that consolidation which edwin thought would never happen has happened. it obviously has implications for our future, and -- >> host: is that necessarily bad? >> guest: i don't think it is necessarily bad. i think we just need to be aware of it and not pretend. one thing we shouldn't pretend it's like this will all be solved by competition, we don't have to worry, the internet is so competitive, someone new will
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come along. at&t lasted in monopoly form for 70 years. what i believe from master switch"masterswitch," the previs that monopolies themselves, the powerful companies themselves go through a series of lifestages. they often come right when they achieve their monopoly or their power, are in kind of a golden era. they have idealistic founders, they are very good products picked mainly they got there for a reason usually. google became what it is not because they had good advertising. it didn't even have advertising initially. it got to because it had a great product. facebook, a little harder explaining how they got there but people like it and it had a hit with college kid. >> host: i wanted to ask you about this because your book spends a very cynical note on facebook. the idea that they are really not giving the world anything
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but its own relationship, sort of reprocessed and rehashed. >> guest: it's a bit of an oyster to me because i get the basic quid pro quo we've always had looks like this, you watch "i love lucy," you watch the ads. you trade something for something. you get the ads but you have to watch, you have to watch the ads to get the good content. i like football and i sit there, how many ads can be put in the fourth quarter course but i understand they have to pay the salaries, so there you go. facebook, like what are you getting exactly? you are getting stuff you like. pictures of your friends kids, but those are your friends. it's kind of this weird thing with a sort of resell you your own life back to you. >> host: is it any different than the telephone? >> guest: well, the telephone, before there was a telephone you can talk to someone wondered miles away. so there's that fact.
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>> host: before there was facebook you couldn't immediately share pictures with people from high school. >> guest: there was e-mail. okay, i -- all right, how do you find -- it doesn't fully compute to me like the service. the telephone, maybe this is just -- i like seeing my kids friends. i just think sometimes the deal is a little weird. i don't think we really thought through it because we also give up all of our personal information. who are your favorite bands? okay, i'll tell you. i think we're kind of more naïve back then and just thought i'll tell the more and everything will be better. it didn't quite have the idea that i was just sort of filling out a joint marketing survey at the time look, i was as naïve as everyone else. wenbut to get back to "the mastr switch," i think we've had a big consolidation into these picked as they say they the life cycles. you have good.
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the real danger i think is if the companies are powerful enough that they can shut off of their competitors and, therefore, stagnate the economy. that sounds absurd for google or facebook, but at&t was his incredibly dynamic young company in the '20s. but by the '50s that shut down innovation. if you let bay, this is "master switch" territory, but if you let the giant company have too much control over a part of the economy, it tends to be bad for this country over all. i'm very a strong believer in stopping that. >> host: that was the unifying idea, is that if you let the companies have too much control, too much influence without the people being aware of exactly what they're doing and what could be bad for society, that to me, correct me if i'm wrong, is a threat that is running through both these books because
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it seems like increasingly where you go in the attention merchant is the idea that facebook, google it are captured our attention in subtle ways at first, but then pervasive ways that we are not necessary thinking about. we are not conscious of the bargain. >> guest: i am concerned about a future where we live in a state of almost being constantly manipulated in subtle ways. it reminds me a little bit of like the casino i can. i don't know if you ever spent time in the casino. it can be fun to gamble and stuff but that is all these subtle efforts to make you lose control of yourself and stay there for hours and just do one bet. i don't know, i would like to be able, i don't like my everyday life to be like that. i don't think our homes should be set up like that where we're just kind of in subtle ways always been a little bit manipulated. it's impossible not to be -- if
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you read a newspaper you are a little bit. when we look to the internet of everything and self-driving cars and increasingly sophisticated wearable technology, is it the fact we are going to create an environment where these devices and everything around us are kind of trying to move us in certain directions, maybe commercial, maybe sometimes political without us knowing what's going on? what does that mean about a country where we are meant to be free? >> host: you have our attention. ideally, what do we do about it? >> guest: it is really important to in some sent to your own intentional accounting. figure out how you spend your time and some degree seize control of it and decide very distinct account like this is i want to spend my time. many people do this already picked they decide they're going
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to have dinner with the families of something and have it be a time when they spend. the weekend, you spend your weekend with other people or with friends. being aware of how you are spinning this incredibly valuable resource is kind of a first step. it's going to make me sound old-fashioned, but i think we often have to create these lines by ourselves here in the older days, maybe religion would make people take a day off from work and have them go to church or do things like that, or traditions. now because of the lack of power of organized religion, things like that, we have to do this for ourselves and be like i'm going to decide what is going to be in some sense a sacred space or a space that is off-limits and what's going to be the rest of my life. i'm not saying people should watch tv or play rent click the
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phone or whatever. but to have that be your entire life poses some serious risk. the last thing i will say is we need to think about advertising and our revolt against advertising. i believe we are in something of a revolt, and the other the more smart about it. we are in a situation where people are just doing everything they can to get away from ads. i understand. ads are annoying. on the other hand, that makes advertisers even more desperate to get at us. we are in this terrible equilibrium where we are constantly fighting. i don't know what the new deal is but i think we need to somehow create as a society a better deal with advertisers. but in the same time, number two, also support content if you really believe you don't want advertising, suck it up and pay for more content. i think people who really -- go ahead.
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>> host: netflix. >> guest: netflix is an easy example. by subscribing newspapers you believe in. all those i knowing options, if you like. basically paying for stuff is really important, even sports broadcasting, whatever it is. if you wanted to be more and more at for you to patronize the ad free model. we have a bad habit -- >> host: do you intentionally stop short of recommending any kind of legal or regulatory action? the problem you present, you present on kind of a global scale, on a pervasive, multibillion-dollar corporate conspiracy that sucks the life out of us. acting on an individual basis, spend a little blood spot on your phone doesn't seem like the
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solution to such a big problem. is it any reason why he stopped short of saying that he needs to be either new life in the span or redefinition of power in this era where peoples information, people's daily, people data, people attention has become such a commodity? >> guest: is the great question and a challenging question. i think it comes maybe from, from experience with government and really wondering if this problem, which is subtle and very moment to moment, is something that is easy to regulate in a way that is not dangerous or counterproductive. that's the challenge in this area. writing this book, i also watched government be involved in this world, and it is mainly in the form of propaganda. i think it's very challenging, especially for a federal
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government, to step in and say we're going to regulate how the marketing appeals to these companies. a couple of things they can and should do, truth in advertising, banning fraudulent advertisement which was supposed to been done already, that kind of thing. but to say we don't want you watching more than x hours of television is really hard in a free society. i do support these large scale solutions, local solutions, bans on billboards, bans on flashing signs. but i am not, although different message. in this particular case i think the problem of our own consciousness is very challenging to solve through, say, federal legislation. because it's such a micro moment to moment kind of thing. i just can't imagine, and when i think about congress getting at this, i was like, how is it going to work?
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or even well-intentioned agencies. there are certain exceptions, e, like banning ads for kids, for example, or try to limit kids programming makes a lot of sense. but more broadly especially in a free society, it gets very tricky very quickly. >> host: it was okay though in the earlier era to ban certain kinds of false or misleading advertisements, and i'm not sure whether you view it was fine to have limits on advertising for things like cigarettes and alcohol in certain cases. these are rules that evolved over time. is there no need for any type of different thinking around the way information is collected? >> guest: i'll take that. so first of all, you're right. first of all at some point in this country we realized we had
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to ban advertisements that are flat out lies. this is truth in advertising. so you take it, it will make you lose 30 pounds, and actually make you sick. or there was a big series, this is a little off, but there was a period where it was very popular to sell the implementation of goat gonads intimate to make the more sexually virulent in the 19 '20s. like that kind of stuff, if you want to make money, like appealing to man's sense of a fading libido, anyway, this is a bit of an nsi. i think there are categories -- >> host: in a way i see lots of those commercials now. the little blue pill works. >> host: we have not given up on like magic potions at all. there's like raspberry ketone to that are supposed to do these things. everyday there some new like one to think which is going to cure all your things. i think that stuff, the line
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should be -- where would i, given carte blanche and there should be targeted -- i think in terms of regulatory areas, i think it is important to think about the ads that are just stealing from you with nothing in return. i don't know if you ever been, i'm sure even a in the back of a new york taxicab and also there is no beginning at it out of it. you are a captive audience. how was this stealing from us? sometimes and airlines. i would be, certain environments like need to be more peaceful. i actually, i guess maybe one reason in the book i held back a little bit is i did want to crm into one chapter at the end like ushis office solutions to all te problems because in people get distracted by that. i wanted to say okay, look, here's our problem. we have a problem. our attention is being taken
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from us and maybe we need to think about this in this kind of weight as a kind of stealing almost. before we get to what would work as a solution. i didn't really think i had the master answer. it's hard to do that in the last chapter of th the book and thats one of the reasons why i held back on those ideas. >> host: i can imagine. one thing i wondered about when it comes to the collection of information and the tracking of individuals across various sites and services is why isn't it possible for consumers to see the dossier on them? if my e-mail address is being used by facebook and amazon to read target ads when i'm on amazon back to me on facebook and is being used by other sites to track across, why don't i have access to a master map to be able to see that and they make the decision, do i like this? and if i don't like it, can't i shut certain doors and stop
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certain services from following me so easily? >> guest: actually you can stop them right now. the problem is most people don't bother to use the feature. there's this kind of do not track features built into most browsers. any viewer can do this and probably should. of the things because there's no regulation or very limited regulation, people are resorting to self-help and are browsers like the brave a browser which i used which we negotiate what tracking is allowed. i think, to get on this tracking, we should never forget that this is our country. we are citizens sovereign. if we don't like something we should be able to ban it. who really loves being tracked? who loves going to website and having all your information collected from you, send over to mothership summer to be processed? if we don't like it we should ban it. i'm not calling for right now but i'm saying we have the right
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as citizens to say some of these practices are just too intrusive. we know it is supposed to bring us better as but we don't think it's worth it. they know everything, a good example, in the uk. this poor fellow had liver cancer and all the said monday he started hearing all these advertisements for funeral homes. they figured out you are going to die soon, probably an error but nobody loves these tracking aspect i would never say that we the citizens of the country or of a city or a state shouldn't have the right to say we just don't like this, stop it. >> host: so what do you think the odds are that we are indeed in one of those moments? you close them look with the antidote about apple introducing the anecdote -- a at blocking te latest version of the operating system with safari and the uproar that that caused, or perhaps it was a version ago?
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is that the early sign of a revolt? >> guest: we could be in the beginning stages of a revolt that fundamentally changes the business model of media forever. it's hard to say right now but it is possible that when used for that we will be like remember advertising? it lasted for 120 years, but it died off, people were not interested. or people at all the information they needed. one thing you do realize is is 100 disco people didn't know what toothpaste was the people that got the idea, i know what budweiser is, i got it, i know what it tastes like. it could be that advertising becomes something that retreats the very limited kind of product, may be new movies you need to hear about, but otherwise starts to fade away. it is possible that it declines especially for some major media. we are not there yet. it's very easy that we could be at the early stages of something in retrospect seemed so obvious
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that this business model, 20th century, like a lot of 20th century things, processed foods, tanning salons, they seem like a good idea at the time but now we do things differently. >> host: and i guess that would cause a major realignment in a lot of different businesses, not the least of which would be googles and facebook. they still quite a bit of power to influence society is that going to be a hindrance to you think to that happen? >> guest: and also television advertising which is still the main revenue model. although half of television revenue now comes a a non-advertising which is interesting. it would be really interesting, something to ponder, to see what would happen if facebook and google switched to pay models and if people would pay $12 a year for facebook or something. people would day, i would probably safer google i think a dollar a month or whatever it
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would be. and if they wean themselves off that diet, with that ultimately lead to a completely different place for how they iconic afford? i'm not sure. it's hard to get people to part with money. americans, we like kind of parting with money and less obvious ways. that's the nature of our culture. we are addicted to free stuff. the other side, advertising is so natural a part of his idea of selling is so natural that we will never be fully rid of it. >> host: i can't think of a better note to end on than that somewhat hopeful note about what could happen in the future. tim wu, the book is "the attention merchants: the epic scramble to get inside our heads." a fascinating read and should make many of us perhaps the least question the bargain that we made for somebody supposedly free services and free media that we consume. thanks. >> guest: it's been a great pleasure.
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thanks. >> c-span, where history unfolds a daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service but america's cable-television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. >> good evening, everyone. welcome. [applause] my name is ed mcmahon and want to welcome you -- i'm kidding. i'm michel kaplan. on behalf of all of us at the bookstore i want to welcome you to the 33rd miami book fair. [applause] how many come how many of you for him and of you is this your third night here? quite a few of you. this a remarkable book there. it couldn't come at a better time, to be honest.
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we had trevor and then james carville. if you didn't see a house in coming, he kind of remarkable. and tonight we have our special guest so i can't wait to hear from ms. welder. as many of you know it takes a village to put this book there on. ..


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