Behavioural Health

Attention as a Metric

November 19, 2023
2 min read


  • Attention is used to gauge what captures and retains our interest in digital products, similar to why we might repeatedly visit a favourite coffee shop.
  • Beyond just time spent, attention as a metric now involves analyzing deeper engagement aspects, like frequency of interaction and specific engaging features.
  • As builders and consumers we need to differentiate between time spent and the value derived from time spent, advocating for creating digital spaces that offer true satisfaction, not just habit-forming engagement.

What does this really mean: “attention as a metric”? And how has this focus shaped our digital experiences?

When we talk about attention as a metric, we're talking about the essence of user engagement. It's about understanding what captures our interest and keeps us coming back. At one point, this was a straightforward concept. If a digital product or service grabbed our attention, it was doing something right. It meant that it was engaging, useful, or enjoyable. 

Think of it like a coffee shop you love to visit. You keep returning not just because of the coffee but because of the ambiance, the friendly baristas, and the feeling of comfort it provides. You come back to the coffee shop because you like the vibe, the music, and the atmosphere. The same is true of attention as a metric: we give our time and attention to things that bring us value. 

But as the digital landscape grew, so did the complexity of measuring attention. This metric of attention began to evolve. It transformed from a simple measure of time spent to a deeper analysis of engagement. How often do we interact with an app? What features keep us engaged? These questions became central to understanding the value that technology brought into our lives.

These are powerful insights and powerful data.

Attention in a Good Way

It’s important to remember the original purpose of attention – a measure of value, not just engagement. In a world brimming with never-ending newsfeeds and the all-too-common doom scrolling, it's easy to confuse prolonged engagement with genuine value. But true value lies in technology that enriches our lives, not just in holding our attention the longest.

Time spent matters. But so does time regretted. Attention isn’t just about the time we spend; it's about the value we get from that time spent. 

How do we build digital spaces that we return to not out of habit, but out of a genuine sense of value and satisfaction? How do we be mindful of where we direct our attention?

With gratitude,


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