Columbia law professor, contributing writer for the New York Times, and author of The Attention Merchants
Photo credit: Mikiko Hayashi
About Tim Wu
Tim Wu is an award-winning author, policy advocate, and professor at Columbia University Law School. Wu’s book The Master Switch was named one of the best books of 2010 by The New Yorker and Fortune magazine. His new book, The Attention Merchants, is an important read for anyone interested in advertising, communications, technology, and media studies.
A highly informative speaker, Wu talks about how information networks evolve away from being universally accessible to becoming more lucrative and sophisticated. Analyzing the strategies of information powers such as Apple, Google, and AT&T, Wu illustrates how everyone is vying for “the master switch.” In addition to looking at the battle for “the pipes”, Wu also takes a revelatory look at today’s quest to control eyeballs. He looks at the so-called “attention merchants”, firms whose business model is the mass capture of attention for resale to advertisers.
In 2006, Wu was recognized as one of fifty leaders in science and technology by Scientific American magazine, and in the following year 01238 magazine listed him as one of Harvard’s one hundred most influential graduates. He is a Contributing Opinion Writer for The New York Times and often writes for Slate, where he won the Lowell Thomas gold medal for travel journalism. He has also contributed to The New Yorker, Time, The Washington Post, and Forbes.
In 2015, he was appointed to the Executive Staff of the Office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as a senior enforcement counsel and special advisor. Wu also worked on competition policy as part of the National Economic Council in the Obama White House in 2016.
He has worked as Chair of Media reform group Free Press, as a fellow at Google, and worked for Riverstone Networks in the telecommunications industry. He was a law clerk for Judge Richard Posner and Justice Stephen Breyer. Wu graduated from McGill University (B.Sc.), and Harvard Law School.
The Innovation Cycle
What stage of the cycle is your industry in? Tech industries go through long cycles of innovation, openness, consolidation, and monopolization. In this lecture, Wu will depict the innovation cycle as it pertains to some of the most important technologies of the last century, including the telephone, radio, and television, while giving perspective on the evolution of the internet and its associated business.
The Attention Merchants
As Tim Wu discusses in his book The Attention Merchants, ad-supported media and content are a relatively new invention and one subject to periodic consumer revolts. In a future where everything is conceivably ad-driven, subscription-driven or both, what business models make sense? If history is any guide, what kind of limits to growth can be expected by a business that resells attention?
Praise for Tim Wu
Praise for The MasterSwitch
Wu’s engaging narrative and remarkable historical detail make this a compelling and galvanizing cry for sanity . . . in the information age.— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A free and open Internet is not a given. Indeed, corporate interests are working feverishly to seize control of it. Drawing on history, Wu shows how this could easily happen and why we are at risk of losing the freedom we now take for granted. A must-read for all Americans who want to remain the ones deciding what they can read, watch, and listen to.— Arianna Huffington
An explosive history that makes it clear how the information business became what it is today. Important reading.— Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and Free, and editor of Wired magazine
My pick for economics book of the year.— Ezra Klein, The Washington Post
Unexpectedly fascinating. . . . A substantial and well-written account of the five major communications industries that have shaped the world as we know it: telephony, radio, movies, television and the Internet. . . . The economy and common sense of The Master Switch . . . makes it valuable to the non-wonk wondering how we got where we are today, and where we might be headed next.— Salon
Thought-provoking. . . . An intellectually ambitious history of modern communications.— The New York Times Book Review
Praise for The Attention Merchants
Part history and part social wake up call, this book is for everyone.— Library Journal
A startling and sweeping examination of the increasingly ubiquitous commercial effort to capture and commodify our attention…We’ve become the consumers, the producers, and the content. We are selling ourselves to ourselves.— Tom Vanderbilt, The New Republic
The question of how to get people to care about something important to you is central to religion, government, commerce, and the arts. For more than a century, America has experimented with buying and selling this attention, and Wu’s history of that experiment is nothing less than a history of the human condition and its discontents.— Cory Doctorow, author of Boing Boing
Television entranced the masses. Digital media, more insidiously, mesmerizes each of us individually. In this revelatory book, Tim Wu tells the story of how advertisers and programmers came to seize control of our eyes and minds. The Attention Merchants deserves everyone’s attention.— Nicholas Carr, author of Utopia Is Creepy and The Shallows
I couldn’t put this fascinating book down. Gripping from page one with its insight, vivid writing, and panoramic sweep, The Attention Merchants is also a book of urgent importance, revealing how our preeminent industries work to fleece our consciousness rather than help us cultivate it.— Amy Chua, Yale law professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and The Triple Package
Books by Tim Wu
Media About Tim Wu
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The Attention Merchants
“Tim Wu has written a profoundly important book on a problem that doesn’t get enough— well, attention. Attention itself has become the currency of the information age, and, as Wu meticulously and eloquently demonstrates, we allow it to be bought and sold at our peril."—James Gleick, author of Time Travel: A History