Can I sell you a subscription to a travel magazine? How about clicking on “What to stop spending money on so you can travel more?” Both have the same purpose of enticing you to make purchases from a company in the travel industry, but consumers are much more likely to click than to purchase on the spur of the moment.

People don’t respond to advertising like they once did and they don’t respond to gift shops like they once did either. I believe the two phenomena are related.

Once upon a time, back in the analog world that slinked off into the night one night in our distant past, finding information was difficult and the information found was precious. That’s where the gift stores come in. Back in the analog world, the only place you could buy a Glacier National Park t-shirt was in Glacier National Park. Now it’s available 24/7 on the web.

(I define the analog world; the one I grew up in, as that time when you hit something that wasn’t working right. Yep, that’s what we used to do. We hit radios, TV’s, carburetors, and if you were a teacher, the occasional unruly kid.)

People don’t respond to advertising like they once did because the information advertising provides is so easy to come by. Today we would say the cost of Search was high. Advertising reduced the cost of Search. Unbidden, the information you didn’t know you wanted, but that might never come your way again, arrived in your mailbox, over the airwaves, or in your magazine or newspaper. Sometimes (often, actually) advertisers would address a letter just to you and carry it to the post office so a mail carrier (we used to call them mailmen in the analog and gender-biased world) would deliver it “just for you.”

I don’t hit things today, and our children are grown and keep secrets well. Like most people, I don’t hit things because in the digital world hitting doesn’t help; it is counterproductive, and ads are too. Ads don’t work because the cost of search is low and I can get anything I want anytime I want, and that means the offer in your ad isn’t very valuable anymore. But ideas, or content, matters a lot because the content might be something I can use and it will be useful only if I pay attention to it.

And all of that is why content is so vitally important in reaching your audience today. Marketing is about attention, and today, content is the most effective way to gain attention.