Pete Blackshaw, CMO of Nielsen BuzzMetrics, made a group on Facebook called "Consumer Generated Media." I posted to the group's wall the first post below, objecting to the use of the word Consumer. He replied and I replied. In the meantime, Ted Tagami saw
my first post the consumer generated media group and made "People Generated Media" into a new group and so far, 70 people have joined.
I think we really need to put our heads together to come up with a term that isn't consumer, prosumer, amateur, maybe even user (even though I like being one), to describe the production of media by anyone. Maybe it's producer but it doesn't feel specific enough to the idea that it's not professional. Don't know. But it's comes up again and again, and I think it needs to be solved.
Mary Hodder (Berkeley) wrote
at 11:35am on August 6th, 2007
Why do you use the word "consumer" for this group?
Why not "user generated media" instead?
Consumer sounds like we are baby birds, where you poor undistinguished junk down our throats, and in exchange, we poop cash.
I'm a user, a producer, a thinker, and I when I make media, I'm conversing with it. I'm a customer of some companies, but I'm not a consumer, mindlessly taking anything any legacy media company will scoop down my gullet, sending them money in exchange.
I think you should seriously reconsider the use of this term, here and elsewhere. It's demeaning and intentionally used to condescend to those of us who create media non-professionally.
Respected blogger and Web 2.0 innovator Mary Hodder left a thoughtful message on my wall questioning my use of the term "consumer" versus other terms, and I thought I'd post both my response and her original post below (sic, it's above to keep it in chron order). It's a good, and important, conversation, and I welcome any thoughts.
Great, thoughtful note – as always! Every once and a while I get taken to task by someone for using this term. Four years ago I was at a “future of media” conference at MIT and I was practically thrown out of the room for using the term.
Still, I’m quite passionate about the word consumer -- have been since I was kid soaking in lessons from a cost conscious, value-seeking, injustice-fighting mother of seven kids. My favorite show while growing up was “Fight Back,” hosted by consumer advocate David Horowitz. I’ve always read “Consumer Reports.” When I started PlanetFeedback, a consumer feedback portal, my tag line was “Viva consumer.” (We even had a “Consumer Manifesto.") While some may see it as demeaning, I see it as empowering.
That not to suggest the other terms – citizen, user, people, we, participants – don’t work as well, and I certainly use them here and there. We should all be sensitive to context. And I don’t deny for a second there’s a broader conversation going on that transcends so many of the issues and themes I write about in the marketing zone.
But at the same time, I really don’t want to confuse folks about my core focus and intent via my blog, this Facegroup page, my ClickZ article, or even in my present work. My target audience is marketers and the business community, and the word “consumer” is deeply woven into the fabric of their everyday vernacular…at least for now. I’ve sought to use language they can understand and relate to, and I know it’s working on many levels.
I also wonder whether against the backdrop of escalated skepticism and consumer distrust toward marketers, we may need to overcompensate on using more explicit labels and transparency tags to achieve clearer understanding in the marketplace. With all the co-mingling, mashing, remixing, reshuffling, co-creation, and occasional co-optation between seller and buyer (or, in the case of PR, messenger and recipient) such clarity of language may the world seems less fuzzy. Consumer may border on the conservative, but it does drive clarity.
Let me also confess that aside from my mother’s influence I also have a strong P&G bias. The word “consumer” is like religion at P&G, and I’ve carried that religion with me in all my pursuits. I am proud to say I am a “Consumer focused marketer,” and when I say it, folks generally understand what I mean. When I applied to P&G out of business school, I sought their deep expertise in “consumer understanding” and figuring out “unmet consumer needs.”
The same logic applies to why I focus on the term “media” versus content. I settled on the term “media” out of my ups and downs of trying to sell the vision and idea of listening to companies. No one really understood what I was talking about until I started to emphasize the word "media." My goal has been to convince marketers that both positive and negative word of mouth was having a big impact on their brands. But while everyone intuitively got the concept of word of mouth, it always carried a connotation of being touchy-feeling, ephemeral, fleeting, and non-quantifiable. One, it suddenly occurred to me that the term “media” was perfect. CGM, while not like a impression you just buy, nevertheless acts like “media.” It leaves a digital trail, and those comments impact the awareness, trial, and purchase behavior of other consumers.
Anyway, happy to continue the conversation. It’s a good one, and I wouldn’t rule out my evolving on the topic over time.
I wonder what William Safire would have to say?
You replied to Pete's post 3 hours ago
I appreciate your answer, and the passion and connection you feel to the word, consumer.
I think my objection partly comes from the variable ways I see people using the word at events, conferences, online etc. I was at a conference of mostly PBS people at Channel 13 in NYC a year ago. There were older, very established people in the room who objected to my use of "user" onstage while I talked, who insisted on consumer. I asked why, and one man very gruffly replied that the people didn't know how to make good media, only the professionals did. He was very condescending toward people who unprofessionally made media, and said they were simply consumers. That's it.
I've seen people as recently as the Web 2.0 Expo use the term onstage presenting technologies. I've continuously seen it in print used to separate the people who consume the media from those who produce it.
The interesting thing for me about social media is that it's not just about media, as in, a single discrete piece of media produced, and then another, and then another. In the other world, these might have been newspaper articles, that people would read. In the new world, these could be newspaper articles, blog post reactions, videos made by anyone, etc. But between these discrete chunks of media is an implicit, socially derived media that we can trace or understand, follow and engage with as dribbles of more media.
Almost everyone at some point in their online lives probably makes some sort of social media, even in the rating, recommending, tagging, posting, linking, emailing, editing, discussing, IMing, of discrete pieces of media (most often delineated by a single URL to each piece, but also sending the media removed from any URL.. either way, the chunking and adding happen.)
Whether they make the chunks is another story. Only a small portion of the total edits Wikipedia, creates a video, writes a blog post, records sound, or whatever. Any many are very bad at it. But that's okay. Some will learn and get good and may go on to work professionally. Some will get good and add to their professional lives with their media creations.
But using the word consumer, with so many from legacy media having so much trouble with the notion that anyone can publish now, and with so many more who don't subscribe to "consumer" doing publishing, makes the word really difficult to parse for a common meaning for all of us.
The guy at PBS was very clear in his use of this word. He uses it intentionally, because it is condescending.
I would like to see us work here, if this is the right place, to come up with better terms. Some object to user because of drug use connotations (though from what I can see, we are all pretty addicted to information and the internet, so i don't think we are that far off there). Some object to prosumer because it's clumsy and does really get at what we want.
I think we are looking for a word that we all haven't thought of yet. I've talked a lot about with with super-word-smith Doc Searls over the past 4 years. And we are stumped.
But still, I think we need to find the words to describe more accurately what is going on, and distinguish it with the old sort of consumer. Yes, consumer rights, consumer reports, consumer advocacy are good, but they wouldn't need to so much if so much of what being a consumer meant to companies and marketers was about dumping products down consumer's throats so they could poop cash.
The internet gives us a way around this mode of interaction, and I think we need to name for it.Posted by Mary Hodder at August 7, 2007 08:43 AM | TrackBack