Category Archives: Internet Tools

Announcing “Captivology”, My Book on the Science of Attention (HarperCollins/2015)

Dear friends, family, colleagues, and supporters, I’m thrilled to announce my first non-fiction book, working title “Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention“, due in early 2015 from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins. I hope you will sign up for updates on Captivology through my book’s website. You can follow @Captivology on Twitter or like Captivology on Facebook. You can also follow @BenParr for regular updates. And finally, here’s a link for sharing this announcement. Or you can just click this lovely button for updates:
Captivology is about the science and psychology of attention; why we pay attention to certain people, products, companies and ideas; and how to capture, maintain and grow attention. My book pairs the research of the world’s greatest scientists and psychologists in attention theory with the stories from the world’s Masters of Attention. The book dives into topics such as:
  • The role scarcity and working memory play on our attention.
  • How Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto created one of the world’s most iconic characters.
  • The power that framing and salience have in directing our attention.
  • The secret sauce of disruptive campaigns and viral products.
  • Sheryl Sandberg on the power of motivation when it comes to capturing attention.
During the course of my research, I have had the opportunity to interview more than 50 scientists, researchers, experts and Masters of Attention. I’m grateful to thought leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Dr. Alan Baddeley (leading researcher in working memory), Steven Soderbergh (famed director), Alexis Ohanian (founder of Reddit), Dr. Michael Posner (leading cognitive psychologist), Jeff Weiner (CEO, LinkedIn), Adrian Grenier (actor, producer and director), Dr. Eli Finkel (expert on attraction), Grant Imahara (Discovery’s Mythbusters), Susan Cain (NYT bestselling author, Quiet), Jon Armstrong (Magician, Chairman of the Academy of Magical Arts), Dr. John Sweller (leading expert on cognitive load), Alexia Tsostis (Co-Editor, TechCrunch), Shigeru Miyamoto (Nintendo), Josh Elman (Partner, Greylock), Dr. Dietram Scheufele (Expert on Communications, Framing), Michael Stevens (creator, Vsauce), and many more who have taken time our of their days to chat with me for this book.
Above: A screenshot from my interview with Adrian Grenier and Dr. Thomas De Zengotita. A special thanks to NASDAQ for letting me use their studios for the interview.
If you have suggestions for my book, please email me at ben@captivology.com with your ideas! I’m especially looking for interesting people to interview and unique stories about how you or somebody you know captured the attention of an individual, an audience or the entire world. A major reason we’re announcing the book now is to gather great stories for the book that I might have otherwise missed. I hope to complete this research-heavy book in the next few months, so please forgive me if I’m much slower than usual responding to your emails, texts and tweets until then.

A Few Other Announcements

I’m working on Captivology on top of my day job as Co-founder and Managing Partner of DominateFund, the early-stage venture capital firm I started last year with Matt Schlicht and Mazy Kazerooni. We’ve expanded the fund from its original focus on connecting Hollywood with tech, though that is still a component of what we do. Our focus now is on helping startups capture attention for their products and accelerate their growth through our expertise in five key areas: Strategic Celebrity Partnerships, Press, Marketing, Customer and User Acquisition, and Building Viral Products. The fund is the reason I decided to write this book. We will be making more announcements about DominateFund in the near future, including several new additions to our team and updates on our amazing portfolio companies. Because I had all of this on my plate, CNET and I decided to retire The Social Analyst, my column at CNET, last year. I want to thank CNET, and especially Jim Lanzone, Mark Larkin and Jim Kerstetter, for being so supportive of me and my column, for being amazing bosses, and for putting up with me and my hectic schedule. I won’t be bringing The Social Analyst back. At least, not in its current form. The column, which I started at Mashable in 2009, has been my place to opine on the most pertinent issues in tech. CNET was kind enough to let me continue my column. I will eventually be back writing columns and thought pieces on a regular basis, but ones that are about more than just technology. There is a mountain of research from my book I want to discuss and advice I want to dispense for every entrepreneur who struggles to get the attention of users or artist who wants to be heard. I also have a lot of other insights in media, entrepreneurship, investing and science I hope to eventually share. One final announcement — I’m proud to announce that I have signed with the Worldwide Speakers Group, which now represents me for all my speaking engagements. You can check out my speaking topics or book me by sending a message to Keith Lambert at KLambert@wwsg.com or calling WWSG at 703-373-9806. I primarily speak about attention, attention for brands, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. I want to thank a few people right now for all of their help the last few months. Thank you to everybody I’ve interviewed for the book so far. A special thanks to the best agent in all of publishing, David Vigliano, for always having my back. The same is true of Will LoTurco, who works with Vig. Thank you Marcy Simon and Melinda Mullin, for going above and beyond the call of duty for me. Thank you to my editor, Genoveva Llosa, for being just sensational. Thank you to my partners Matt Schlicht and Mazy Kazerooni for being my unofficial brothers (Nat, you too). A thank you to Hallie, my badass EA. Thank you to my family (love you mom & dad!), and finally a special thank you to my girlfriend Julie, for being my rock. Onward and upward! Thank you for kindness, ~ Ben

Please follow me and Captivology on social media!

(p.s. — Happy birthday, sis!)

So @Hotmail Sent Me a Tweet…

It was in reference to my story on the new Gmail Preview Pane feature. So, two thoughts here: 1) You caught my attention, Microsoft. Good job to your Hotmail social media team. 2) But even if you have a feature first Microsoft, it doesn’t mean your product is better or will be more successful. Just look at Zune wireless sync. You had it first, but that didn’t stop the iPod from kicking your ass, did it? Thought so. Addition: Hotmail is a good product. Is it better than Gmail? Not in my opinion, but to each his or her own.

I Was on CNN (Here's a Video)

While this video is a few weeks old, It would be silly for me not to post this awesome video of me on CNN (via phone) on September 26th. The segment actually aired twice that day. I was up at 4:00 AM on a Saturday morning to do it with CNN’s Josh Levs. Continue reading

Is Scoble Right About a $5 Billion Twitter Valuation? I'd Bet Money on It

I can’t help myself. I need to say something about a post by well-known early adopter Robert Scoble on Twitter being worth $5 Billion. First, let me summarize Scoble’s post. Really simply, it boils down to this: businesses. Twitter has seduced thousands of businesses to use it as their promotional tool, even over Facebook, and Twitter isn’t losing those companies anytime soon. With thousands of potential paying businesses, Twitter could generate significant revenue to justify a $5 billion valuation. No go pro argument comes without a con, though, and my favorite counter argument comes from my friend Alex Wilhelm on TechGeist:
I fully agree with Robert that Twitter will not have trouble monetizing. I also agree that Twitter is kicking Facebook’s ass in the business domain. To think otherwise is foolish. Twitter is getting bigger, and it is not going away. Robert is right, correct, and dead on until we reach his financial numbers.
Essentially Alex plays the P/E game, where he estimates the potential revenue of Twitter, assumes a very high P/E (Price/Earnings ratio) of 100, and concludes that “at $125 per business per month, you need 38,666 paying businesses” to justify $5 billion. Usually I take a middle ground, but in this case, I’m going to side with Robert Scoble, with one exception, which I will address at the end. Scoble doesn’t give out any numbers for his $5 Billion valuation, while Alex does. However, Alex ignores all of Twitter’s other potential revenue sources. A few:
– Twitter.com Advertising – Mobile Advertising – Twitter Search Advertising – A Twitter version of AdSense – Media Deals
It’s late, so I’m clearly blanking out on a half dozen other business models. Twitter Search advertising and a Twitter version of AdSense interest me the most, and you’ll probably see Mashable articles on both subjects at some point. On top of this, I think Alex ignores the potential of individuals purchasing premium accounts. What, you don’t think Robert Scoble or Ashton Kutcher wouldn’t pay for some detailed analytics? Dream on. So one last time, let’s do the numbers. Let’s assume a P/E of 100, like Alex does. Let’s assume 10,000 businesses and 10,000 individuals pay for Twitter premium accounts, and that it averages out to $100 a month:
100 x $100 x (10,000 x 2 x 12) = $2.4 Billion
Advertising gets trickier, but if you get 4 million clicks on a Twitter ad network worth $0.50 each, you’d already make up most of the difference. Let me be clear: Twitter is not worth $5 Billion yet. But Twitter could get to that valuation with an advertising/subscription account combination. At the very least, I’d roll the dice on it. Oh, and if your curious about my one exception, it is this: Facebook can still win over businesses that have chosen Twitter as their promotional tool. More on that in the future.

NEW: Ben Parr's Posterous Experiment

If you’ve been following my Twitter account, you might have noticed some new Post.ly links, pictures of cute animals, and even a photostream of the Congressional Roundtable I attended yesterday. That’s because I have set up a new, complementary blog to BenParr.com, powered by Posterous, a YCombinator-funded company. The purpose of the Posterous blog is primarily to share photos and the little gems that I find on the web. It’s a more lighthearted blog – thus why I am going to consistently post pictures of cute animals to lighten your day. But when I am on the go, I will use it over TwitPic or YFrog to share what I am doing or who I am meeting with. I hope it better organizes what I’m doing and gives me a new avenue to share the best things I find on the web. BenParr.com will still be my primary blog. I will continue to post my insights, my interviews, and my projects on this blog. I will post commentary that I don’t place on Mashable here. In fact, you will soon see an increase in blog posts on BenParr.com due to a new project/experiment I’m hoping to announce this week. If you’re interested in keeping up my Posterous posts/photos, you can subscribe here. I also suggest subscribing to BenParr.com because there’s a lot of new and useful content coming soon. – Ben

Internet Entrepreneurship in 2009: Where's the Opportunity? [Presentation]

Back in February 2008 (Feb 3rd and Feb 12th), I have two talks at Northwestern University entitled “Internet Entrepreneurship in 2009: Where’s the Opportunity?”. One was at the Kellogg School of Business (I even wrote a blog post on making engaging slides based off the Kellogg slides). The other, the one you see in the video above, was for Northwestern’s Business Institutions Program (BIP), which is actually my minor. I discuss a brief history of web innovation, the effects of the market crash on web entrepreneurship, and most of all, the upcoming trends in web business and how you can capitalize on them. While the speech was back in February, the points in it are still relevant. Bootstrapping is still a pragmatic way to get a business off the ground. Mobile is still a hot platform. And most of all, you still can’t run a business by ignoring . I’m sorry it took this long to get the presentation up, but I hope you thoroughly enjoy it. I’ve also embedded the slideset from this presentation below (it’s actually the Kellogg slideset, but they’re essentially the same). P.S. – This is my style of presentation. No notes, minimalist slides, lots of interactivity. Oh, and I love presenting. So if you like it, and you think I should come speak your event or conference, you should definitely email me (ben [at] benparr [dot] com).

Discussing Google Chrome OS and Microsoft Bing on CNN Live

I was on CNN Live once again last week (it was a huge bonus to be on with the talented and insanely engergetic Chris Pirillo. Seriously, I thought I was off-the-wall!). The topic of discussion: Google vs. Microsoft, specifically the announcement of Google Chrome OS and the war brewing between Google and Microsoft’s new search engine, Bing. Also on with us: Nick Thompson of Wired. I shall let the video tell the rest:

Iran Protests and the Media: My Appearance on CNN Live

On Tuesday, I was invited onto CNN Live to discuss how Iranians have been utilizing social media tools like Twitter and YouTube to communicate about the Iran election protests. I have been covering the subject extensively over at Mashable. The below is the recorded video of my appearance. I was on the “Blogger Bunch” with Fausta Wertz (FaustasBlog.com) and Brad Friedman (BradBlog.com). Although I thought it would focus on social tools and Iran, I had to pull out a bit of my Poli Sci education and discuss Iran’s stability and the Grand Ayatollah. I will once again appear on CNN Live Friday at 12:00 PM ET/9:00 AM PT, this time to discuss the iPhone 3G S and iPhone applications. Now, how did I do? Please let me know so I do better tomorrow!
Recommended Reading:HOW TO: Track Iran Election with Twitter and Social MediaU.S. Government Asks Twitter to Stay Up for #IranElection CrisisMindblowing #IranElection Stats: 221,744 Tweets Per Hour at Peak

Stop Talking At Your Audience; Start Talking With Them

I’m currently working on a talk I’m giving at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business. The topic is Internet Entrepreurship in 2009: Where’s the Opportunity? And if you’re in Evanston on Tuesday, Feb 3rd at 12:15, Room 101, I’d love to see you there, at the talk or at some point that day. I’m not going to give away what I will talk about. What I am going to talk about is one simple way to avoid one of my pet peeves: bad presentations I talked about this in a previous (and popular) blog post, but the point of today’s article isn’t how to give a presentation, but rather this mindset:
Stop talking at your audience, and start talking with them.
Continue reading

What Should You Put Online To Get a Job?

There were a few interesting conversations yesterday and today on the role of “Internet presence” in the job hunt. Will a blog help you get a job? What about an online resume? Should you beef up your LinkedIn account in case employers look at it? The omniscient blogger Robert Scoble started with a list of ways to socially network if you are laid off. Then he stated that “if you don’t have a blog, you don’t have a resume,” which led to this argument over his words. Sorry I had to go through the history of a conversation, but I needed to frame the picture. A post on Mashable by Dan Schawbet discussing how to use social media to build an online resume also piqued my interest. All of this conversation needs to be filtered. We need to ask the big question:
What should you put online to get a job?

To answer that question, I need to say this: what you put online isn’t going to get you a job. It’s what you have accomplished and what the interviewers believe you could accomplish that will get you the job. Having a blog on marketing isn’t going to get you a marketing position at Apple if your competition has successfully executed major marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. What a blog will do is accentuate your experience, your strengths, and leave a lasting impression. So what do I suggest? Be passionate and be professional. Employers will indeed Google search you, so make sure those inappropriate pictures never, ever get taken and put online. After that, just do what excites you. Creating a blog when you hate to write is a waste of your time and the time of a potential employer. It’s clear as day whether or not you put time into your website. Pointing out your accomplishments in a video or an about page can help, but it only helps if you’ve actually accomplished something. So instead of worrying about what Scoble is saying about online presence, focus on making solid, meaningful accomplishments and conveying that experience when you finally sit down with that interviewer. Image credit to stayrudee at Flickr