In a post laying out some “accumulated thoughts on media ” this week, GigaOm founder Om Malik suggested that any new model for media must focus on attention. As he put it:

“In searching for the next sustainable business model or media company, the company needs to be great at “owning attention” and the company must be very clear about what it stands for.”

Well it just so happens that at roughly the same time that post was published, on the other side of the Atlantic a British media brand was demonstrating a very clever way of doing exactly what Malik prescribes.

Trinity Mirror’s UsVsTh3m has made a USP out of its games and quizzes – but its latest game, 1,000 Seconds, is perhaps the purest example of how the site combines attention grabbing tactics with a quirky and distinctive style of humour.

The concept is ludicrously simple, the game simply asks you to hold down an onscreen button for 1,000 seconds (I confess I cheated and weighted down my mouse button to get through the whole process). So far, so mindlessly boring, and you might consider it to be nothing more than a cynical attempt to up engagement times – after all, anyone making it to the end will have viewed the page for more than 16 minutes.

1,000 seconds UsVsTh3m

But as the timer ticks down, the game engages in a running commentary with the reader, referencing the activity you’re engaged in with a distinctly human voice while also using music and changing background images. It’s all done with the same sense of humour and identity that runs through the rest of the site.

It’s also worth noting that the game recognises each time a player starts the game again with a different opening message.

Is there a point?

UsVsTh3m has consistently demonstrated an ability to make content people not only want to share, but also interact with. Many of its quizzes and games, such as Granagotchi, also make informative political points in a lighthearted way. 

It has however, made only tentative efforts to monetise the audience of well over seven million it has built over the last year. Yet it’s easy to see an advertiser jumping at the chance to sponsor a game which keeps someone’s attention for more than a quarter of an hour. 

More serious publications have been pushing their own interactive storytelling – the most famous example being The New York Times with Snow Fall. Yet these are still some way short of the self-referencing combination of interaction and narrative that 1,000 Seconds displays. They are still about putting information in front of the audience, albeit in a multimedia explorable format. Immersive yes, but not truly interactive.

1,000 seconds may be frivolous, it may be simple, it may be silly. But it could also be one of the first examples of how media brands can use technology to truly “own attention” by changing the way media interacts with its audience.