March 14, 2006

"Consumers In Charge"

I'm at PC Forum, speaking later today about "me media." There are some people using the term "users" while on stage, but in the halls and at meals, as well as from many onstage, there is a lot of use of the term, "consumer." At one point, I'd heard it so much, that I said I disagreed with that terminology to someone. After-all, the guy using it was talking about funding some company that was all about users publishing their work. He said, "... whatever, they are consumers...".

This conference feels very cynical overall, and the terminology is one of the main reasons though there are others. It's like the difference between the eyeballs of old, and attention: it's the participation. And people who participate are not consumers.

There was a guy on stage yesterday that Esther Dyson kept trying to get to say that the users could create on his site, and he finally blurted out, ".. we just let them think they are creating...". (You know there was a publicist in the back of the room saying "Take him out. I repeat. Take him out" to a sharpshooter on an ear radio somewhere. In fact there are tons of publicts and PR folks here.. many more than last year.)

It's too bad because "Users in Charge" is a great topic and Esther and company have put in a lot of work to frame these issues thoughtfully. But most of the attendees can't help themselves... they can only think of consumers buying things, being fed something packaged and consumable and neatly branded from these companies and making boatloads of money, with seemingly little care for the users, the experience or anything else.

Part of the issue is that many of the most interesting thinkers on this topic are at SXSW, where I was for a couple of days before coming here. I'm sure things would be different if danah boyd or Doc Searls or Joi Ito were here talking about users and participants.

Course, there has been a little fun:

It's serious here at PC Forum... yes we have no bananas

Posted by Mary Hodder at March 14, 2006 07:17 AM | TrackBack

The most absurd was during the Me Media roundtable session where someone was talking about "content-producing consumers"... I had to walk out about then

Posted by: Brian Dear at March 14, 2006 06:05 PM

".. we just let them think they are creating...".

Ah, but that's the ugly truth. Beneath the pretty words, it's all about preying on people's desires to create, using flattery and sweet-talk. But the only real thing that is "created" is an enrichment of the marketer from a lighter wallet of the *consumer*.

Yes, consumer. What you are to consume, is their products and services, to help you "create" and "participate". It's the vanity press model.

I find it a cruel practice.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at March 15, 2006 05:07 AM

Or, maybe it's just a sign of the times that the heyday of PC Forum is long gone. I wonder how many of the Web 2.0 kids even would know who Esther Dyson is - no, she's not part of the vacuum company - or have heard of PC Forum.

And, aren't a lot of these conferences a way for PR to showcase clients, and look for new ones?

Posted by: Jeremy Pepper at March 17, 2006 03:52 AM