Steely Dan, Juul, and the Death of the Attention Economy

Greetings from the seasonally lovely metropolis of NYC, where all the teens are sexting about Steely Dan:


Your faithful correspondents at LHCHQ are hard at work, though if you notice a drop off in the quality of this newsletter it’s because our wonderful intern Langa abandoned us to go back for her sophomore year of college (we miss you!!).

On to the #content:

It’s the (attention) economy, stupid

Our dear friend Casey Schwartz recently wrote an amazing piece in the NYT about the way our devices have been weaponized to suck away all of our attention into their gaping maw. And also, that maybe this wonderful metric that we’ve all been chasing called “engagement” is like, very very bad for humans. Which is something we’ve been thinking about for a long time, not just in how it relates to our personal phone addictions but also in how it relates to our profession.

For a long time, the content world has been focused on the idea that the most valuable commodity out there is time -- there are only so many minutes in the day for people to consume content, so you better do everything you can to get them to consume yours. But we’ve always thought this was kind of bullshit -- a trope that fits well in a thought leaders’ tweet or on a slide in a keynote presentation, but one that doesn’t actually stand up very well to scrutiny in the real world.

Those days are coming to an end. Facebook is moving its focus away from engagement and to something called “quality time”. Google and Instagram are introducing tools to help limit screen time. And Apple’s forthcoming iOS 12 update introduces a boatload of new features aimed at helping us wean ourselves out of our collective phone addiction.

Is this the internet equivalent of Perdue Pharma creating OxyContin, then branching into addiction treatment? Sort of! But better late than never.


In our world, it simply means more of what we’ve been preaching for years: an acceleration away from content that drives bubblegum metrics, and an increased focus on great storytelling that drives meaningful interactions. Which some might even call quality time.

Featured content person: Jeff Davis of Message Lab


Jeff, like many of us, is a veteran journalist who’s repurposed his skills for the brand world -- currently as the editorial director at Message Lab in Berkeley. He’s been covering the collision of technology and business for two decades as a journalist, magazine editor, and brand content strategist. He was a founding editor of Business 2.0 magazine; an executive editor at CNET and CBS Interactive; and former contributor to The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Mother Jones, and other outlets. More recently, as a co-founder of Original9 Media, he spent six years crafting successful multi-channel editorial programs for leading tech brands and publishers. 

Some (high-paying) jobs

Sephora is looking for a Senior Manager, Campaign and Content. It's based in SF, and you get a sick in-store discount.

BNP Paribas is looking for a Head of Content for the Americas (North AND South), with 10+ years of experience. That financial sector $$ is no joke.

Juul (ed note: !!??!!) is looking for a Global Content Director with 7-10 years experience (doing content, not vaping). You're about to be hella popular with your teenage family members.

Other things of note

1) From Digiday, some branded content about branded content, as The Singularity inches ever closer.

2) In the department of Quality Time vs. Engagement, allow us to present: Hundreds of thousands have watched Facebook Live videos of the New York Times walking in parks. Not sure what side this is on but it’s fucking fascinating.

3) From The Ringer: What magazine covers have to teach us about the attention economy.

4) Uber hired a CMO (about GD time). Her last job was at a company that makes whiskey so hopefully Uber’s next round of ads will involve Dara Khosrowshahi necking bottles of Jim Beam in the back seat of a black car.

5) According to The Atlantic, being an Instagram influencer is the hot new summer job for teens. Poor Langa was stuck working for us.

6) And finally, our good friend Joe Chernov took a job with our good friends at Robin, and we couldn’t be happier for both.

What we're listening to

What we're listening to is on hiatus this week, because Langa was our secret conduit to tasteful music that the youth are into, and without her we'll hopelessly and unfashionably go back to listening to 90s rap all the time.

Big Pun quote of the week:

"Dead in the middle of Little Italy / Little did we know that we riddled / some middleman who didn’t do diddly"

Have a great week everyone!