Social Media Week 2015 is currently taking place in seven different cities around the globe, and fortunately for me, New York happens to be one of them.  I was able to get my hands on a campus pass and carved out some time to check out a few events throughout the week.

The theme of this year’s events revolve around mobile and the “rise of the connected class.”

Each event, while unique in its own way, touches on the topic of how we can achieve more, together, in a connected world.  Below, you’ll find my recap for the first event I attended on Day 1 of #SMWNYC.  

SMW NYC Campus Pass SMWNYC Lobby

Measuring Attention and Intention, With The New York Times

Michael Zimbalist is the SVP of Advertising Products and R&D for the NY Times.  During his hour long session on Tuesday morning, he honed in on a topic that I think will resonate with anyone reading this.  Attention.

Michael Zimbalist SMWNYC 2015

From the early days of advertising on TV, radio and print to the first few years of internet ads, the goal of marketers and advertisers was to drive intention, or more bluntly, a sale.  In Michael’s opinion, that goal hasn’t changed, but the approach taken to accomplish it has.  The modern consumer is simply too smart, savvy and overexposed to fall for such direct, traditional efforts at driving intention.  As an example, think about every search you type into Google.  Each search signals your intention to learn more about that topic, which is why Adwords was born to capitalize on that intent and help businesses leverage it.

Well, when’s the last time you clicked on an ad after a Google search?

“Philosophers believe intention is what makes humans human” – Michael Zimbalist

In Michael’s opinion, rather than driving intention, modern marketers should pursue a more holistic, less direct approach that focuses on the attention of their audience.  Marketers must think less like sales people, who are focused on a specific outcome, and more like a media company, which is built on delivering moments that capture our attention.

By prioritizing attention, and metrics such as time spent, over intention, and metrics such as impressions and clicks, we can more effectively reach an audience of consumers that have shifted all of their focus to mobile, video and social.  When attention is sustained for a certain period of time, that may be an indicator of intention and lead to a conversion.  An example that Michael brought up was a piece of content published by the New York Times last year in conjunction with Netflix to promote Orange Is The New Black.  The reason they viewed this campaign as a success wasn’t due to the number of Facebook shares the article had, but rather, the length of time people spent on the page to read the piece.
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In the future, Michael predicts that digital marketing will mature into more branded, attention-centric content that delivers value and less direct response, buy now messaging.  He also believes digital advertising will apply some of the techniques that started with TV advertising to identify the correlation between time spent with content and long term outcomes.

Thanks for reading our coverage of Social Media Week New York.  Follow us on Twitter for updates, pictures and quotes from different events throughout the week.