Technology Distraction is a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

Recently I found myself interviewing a founder of a business who is seeking funding. While on a video call I could hear a TV talk show in the background, and during our conversation the gentleman I was talking to kept a text messaging conversation going on his mobile phone. While I couldn’t actually see what was taking place all indications where that the gentleman was also involved in some sort of online game on his computer at the same time. All of this in plain sight.

Needless to say the conversation did not last long before I politely signed off. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when someone doesn’t apply their full 100% attention to me… and no I was not an only child. I personally NEVER go into any meeting with a mobile phone on, and when I realized how addictive TV is I stopped watching it. Yep, I don’t watch TV. Bizarre eh? The occasional movie yes, TV… what for?

Distraction Feeds on Procrastination

This got me to thinking about procrastination and distraction. We become distracted when we are either bored or dislike what we are presently doing, and when we procrastinate we search for distractions. When I watch my son drawing pictures (something he loves doing) I could run a freight train through the living room and it’s unlikely he would take any notice. His focus is laser-like.

In contrast when we have to sit down to do something that we dread…taxes maybe, finding a gift for little Johnny’s birthday party or whatever, we find it that much more difficult to fight distractions. This is because we procrastinate and when we procrastinate we are so easily distracted. Have you ever found yourself checking your emails again, even though you have nothing urgent you are waiting on? Ever looked out the window in a vain search for enlightenment or more likely a pretty girl passing by? We’ve all been there before. Try taking public transport in any major city in the world and observe what those around you are doing. They are distracting themselves. These distractions used to be newspapers, magazines, CD’s and books. Increasingly the medium has been digitized.

Distraction feeds on procrastination which itself is a derivative of boredom. How many people on this planet, on any given day find themselves procrastinating or bored and thus distracted?

I have no idea but I know it’s a bucket load. Distraction is a multi-billion dollar industry.

The Visual Crack

TV is now roughly 50 years old and has come a long way since its inception. It was, and is still for many, visual crack. The influence of Television is nothing short of astounding. The average American apparently chews through a full quarter of their entire life on this ball of dirt watching television. This is big business, BUT it is being rapidly replaced by other means of distraction. Mobile video for one. Users can and do watch TV on demand on their mobile phones now while X Box, Nintendo, iPods, iPads, and personal computers provide a smorgasbord of distractions.

One of the core themes here is that the distractions that we were accustomed to in the past were all static distractions. We did not interact with our TV. Okay, maybe we swore at the thing occasionally but there was no feedback from the TV… unless it ceased its operations after having something hurled at it. Yeah, I’m not joking when I call it a visual crack.

The Gaming Consoles

Gaming is one such distraction industry that has grown like a mushroom in a dark cupboard. This industry is the virtual crack of the Internet. For extensive statistical data on the industry you can start looking here. Importantly though with online gaming we can engage with others on the net. The entire process is no longer static, in fact its a social experience. For many kids and adults alike this is akin to yesteryears football or baseball in the park with mates. Many players have entered this market already, as an example, Facebook, while not specifically a gaming site, allows us to engage with others in a non-static way. There are plenty of examples I’m sure you are aware of, but the important point is that this feedback mechanism is revolutionary since it has taken a medium that was purely a monologue and turned it into a dialogue. It’s taken what could be argued to be an antisocial affair and turned it into a social affair. Humans are social creatures and we are social creatures that are easily distracted. Why leave your office desk to socialize at the water cooler when you can simply watch a silly video on your friend’s Facebook page or continue with your online poker game you put on hold when jumping off the subway where you played the game on your iPhone?

The Influx of Movie-based Gaming Themes

There are more permeations of the evolution of this industry taking place everyday than I have digital ink available. However, I will mention one such permeation in flux right now. Consider the relationship between Hollywood and the new gaming kids on the block. The contentious issue of gaming companies using themes and characters from popular movies has been sidestepped with gaming companies creating games such as Halo or Grand Theft Auto IV. Why pay out massive fees to Hollywood when you can create your own themes and characters? Interestingly the studios are responding with the creation of their own “gaming divisions”. How long before we no longer need real movie stars?

Perfecting the Distraction Industry

We believe in investing in major trends where the wind will be at our back. Investing in startups is a risky enough business and as such we typically only invest where we have the odds stacked in our favour as much as possible. We have been paying attention to this sector, which we briefly discussed here, and this is one of the reasons for our participating in the private placement of a company that is involved in monetizing this dialogue in a niche industry. Further to this we like addictive industries as the potential is far greater.

There is a new world rapidly evolving socially and physically, and it’s a world full of new technologies and products. I’d be interested to know what other sectors readers feel to have such potential.

Lastly since we’re speaking of perfecting the distraction industry, which makes its living from moving people away from reality, it would be a disservice to you not to mention the most artful of all distractions… politics.

This video does a great job of describing one element of the political process.


“(The Weakest Link) is a fascinating program. They ask a bunch of people questions and they keep getting rid of the dumbest person, so just the smartest person is left. It is kind of the opposite way we elect a president.” – Jay Leno


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