Blind Spot: The Attention Economy and the Law

36 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2017 Last revised: 10 Jul 2019

See all articles by Tim Wu

Tim Wu

Columbia University - Law School

Date Written: March 26, 2017


Human attention is a resource. An increasingly large and important sector of the economy, including firms such as Google, Facebook, Snap, along with parts of the traditional media, currently depend on attentional markets for their revenue. Their business model, however, present a challenge for laws premised on the presumption of cash markets. This paper introduces a novel economic and legal analysis of attention markets centered on the “attention broker,” the firms that attract and resell attention to advertisers.

The analysis has important payouts for two areas: antitrust analysis, and in particular the oversight of mergers in high technology markets, as well as the protection of the captive audiences from so-called “attentional theft.”

Keywords: attention, competition, market definition, antitrust

Suggested Citation

Wu, Tim, Blind Spot: The Attention Economy and the Law (March 26, 2017). Antitrust Law Journal, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Tim Wu (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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