The present invention provides an approach for distributing advertising and other information over a computer network. Attention brokerage is the business of buying and selling (brokering) the "attention" of consumers. It can be used to provide direct, immediate payment to a consumer for paying attention to an advertisement or other information. This compensation may be used directly or indirectly to compensate the owners of content or may be used for other purposes. The link between the ad and the appropriate viewers provided by reference to a data base of digitally stored demographic profiles of potential users. Such ads may be viewed as "negatively priced" information because consumers are paid for their attention to the information. Private profiles may be maintained for different consumers and consumer information may be released only based on consumer permission. Consumers may be compensated for allowing their information to be released. Information can be routed based on demographics. A special icon or other symbol displayed on a computer screen may represent compensation and allow users to choose whether they will view an ad or other information and receive associated compensation.