Chances are, you don't know about the Eyeball Economy. But Sarah Palin does. She's quickly becoming very, very rich, thanks to it. And she's doing it not by producing a product (her book has been given away for the most part) or a service (she abandoned her career as a "politician" because, ironically, it wasn't as profitable as her current career) but by producing eyeballs - billions of juicy, greedy eyeballs aching to love and hate little old her. And where Eyeballs go money flows.
People buy and sell on the Eyeball Economy every day. We spend more time and money following our Eyeballs than we do making and spending old-fashioned dollars-and-cents (or yuan or euro).
The Eyeball Economy consists of what - or who - interests us. The more people become interested in something or someone, the more money that person (or thing) can generate. The Eyeball Economy can make that which interests people very rich, very quickly. For example, the masses are addicted to Sarah Palin - so much so that I recently had to unFriend someone due to her extreme reaction to my suggestion that she stop reading and writing about her if Sarah bothered her so much.
She thought Sarah couldn't make money off her unless she bought her book. But her active, vocal hatred of Sarah drives many others to buy the book - and pay to see her speak, or watch a show that Sarah was on, or spend hours and hours zealously trolling through the internet collecting snippets of the addictive, juicy vocal hatred (and love) of millions of fellow Sarah addicts. And so she joined a "I hate Sarah Palin" group where she spends her time generating crude, insulting posts.
When I suggested the possibility that Sarah, herself, had begun the "I hate Sarah Palin" group, she laughed. She called me paranoid. She doesn't know about the Eyeball Economy.
In the Eyeball Economy, hate is just as good a currency as love. Google the terms "hate+Sarah+Palin" and "love+Sarah+Palin" and see which results in more hits. [Surprise! As of 02/11/2010 it's 15 million love and 10 million hate.] That's a total of 25 million people who are motivated enough to write about her.
How many people read those writings? Well over a Billion - so far. That's a lot of eyeballs! [Go to Google Tracker and watch the Sarah Palin Currency Index.] And that's not counting all the video feeds of Sarah.
What my friend can't understand is the Eyeballs who hate Sarah are contributing to the Eyeballs Economy just as much as the eyeballs who love her. In the Eyeball Economy, attention is the currency, not love or hate. In his book Flip the Funnel, Joseph Jaffe notes:
Getting people to care these days is like climbing Mount Everest. People today are skeptical, jaded, cynical, and wary — and increasingly so, due to the hardships and hangover of the recession. And those are the good ones! The rest are apathetic, uninterested, indifferent, and detached.
Thousands of people earn their living recording Sarah's every move. Millions - hundreds of millions - more will pay billions to the recorders - and they give Sarah a percentage (called speaking fees or appearance fees). Who cares if she says goofy things or writes notes on her hand? She's entertaining!
Why, it's almost like watching a Hollywood movie.