The Attention Merchants is a book of our time, touching on an emerging strain of anxiety about the information age that goes beyond gripes about digital distraction or information overload ... In its synthesis of such ostensibly disparate threads, The Attention Merchants is a bracing intellectual tour de force. But Wu writes with more brio than your average policy maven/academic.
The Attention Merchants is more survey than treatise. Few chapters offer startling new arguments, though Mr. Wu is well attuned to paradoxes and ironies ... Only in the last 50 pages, when he appraises the excesses of the modern internet does Mr. Wu turn savage, sinking enough venom into Twitter and Instagram to kill a baby monkey ... [Wu] writes with elegance and clarity, giving readers the pleasing sensation of walking into a stupendously well-organized closet ... Mr. Wu’s chapters about the early days of advertising are some of this book’s most enjoyable, easily serving as a reader’s companion to Mad Men.
...[a] startling and sweeping examination ... Wu’s succinct reexamination [of American advertising] is important, for he shows how the nascent attempt at capturing attention was marked by a set of events that would be repeated in decades to come, each time drawing closer to the privacy of our inner lives ... One question that Wu, in The Attention Merchants, never really resolves is what exactly constitutes a meaningful use of one’s attention.