*** The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu

The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads tells the story of advertising, from 19th century newspaper ads to today. What I found fascinating about the book is how technology and persuasion techniques grew together, with developments in either field spurring changes in the other. So when the post office established fast and cheap distribution, pamphlets soon followed. TV programs were organized around advertising needs.  Zip codes soon allowed advertising to target specific geographies. And of course Facebook and its ilk now allow personalized ads.

The book is peppered with fun facts. For example, the remote control was invented to “block” ads (in fact, to be able to turn down the sound during commercials), and the first spam message was send (IN ALL CAPS) in 1978, way before the average consumer was even aware of email.  I highly recommend this well-written and lively story.

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