The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu

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Reviewed by Will Cross, Director, Copyright & Digital Scholarship Center, NCSU Libraries

“LASCIVIOUS BAT PEOPLE ROAM THE MOON!”

Beginning with this real life, turn-of-the-century newspaper headline, law professor Tim Wu charts the history and practice of “attention harvesting.” From wartime propaganda efforts and patent medicine ads touting the miraculous powers of the Carbolic Smoke Ball to modern clickbait headlines, Wu tells the stories of the hucksters, politicians, charlatans, preachers, and ad men and women working tirelessly to catch your eye. In an era dominated by fake news and micro-targeted ads, this guide to the “alchemy for turning attention into money” could not be more timely or arresting.