Persistence and Success in the Attention Economy

11 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2009

See all articles by Fang Wu

Fang Wu

University of Texas at Dallas

Bernardo A. Huberman

Stanford University

Date Written: March 28, 2009


A hallmark of the attention economy is the competition for the attention of others. Thus people persistently upload content to social media sites, hoping for the highly unlikely outcome of topping the charts and reaching a wide audience. And yet, an analysis of the production histories and success dynamics of 10 million videos from YouTube revealed that the more frequently an individual uploads content the less likely it is that it will reach a success threshold. This paradoxical result is further compounded by the fact that the average quality of submissions does increase with the number of uploads, with the likelihood of success less than that of playing a lottery.

Keywords: attention, social media, persistence

JEL Classification: D50, D80, L10

Suggested Citation

Wu, Fang and Huberman, Bernardo A., Persistence and Success in the Attention Economy (March 28, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Fang Wu

University of Texas at Dallas ( email )

2601 North Floyd Road
Richardson, TX 75083
United States

Bernardo A. Huberman (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Palo Alto, CA 94305
United States

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