Thursday, June 22, 2006

Is the Consumer Gone?

David Dudas from EyeSpot was being interviewed this week by Amber MacArthur on the Inside the Net podcast and he said something very intriguing.

He basically said (and I paraphrase): "The consumer is gone now."

He meant that the idea of a passive consumer "consuming" your goods and services is going away, especially for companies that are largely Web-based.

Instead of viewing your customers as "consumers" you need to see them as "participants" or "collaborators."

He said this in context of his own company, EyeSpot, where people can upload, edit and view videos. So, a person who has no video editing software on their computer could upload a video taken on their camcorder, or even cell phone, and then edit it, chop out the boring scenes, add music and produce it all on the Website.

To EyeSpot, everybody is a video editor. Everybody is providing content for the EyeSpot Website. No one is just a passive observer, at least not for the long-term.

In fact, you can even take several of the existing videos on EyeSpot (there are already thousands of them) and mash them together without even providing any of your own content.

Do you think of your business this way? How can your "consumers" get out of their chairs and participate in your business, making it better than before in the process?

A blog is one way to start.

You start posting your blog entries, then you allow people to comment on those postings. The postings add to the content available on your blog, and away you go! Your customers and prospective customers are participating and adding content.

Here is a blog entry in my blog where I had some great comments from people.

You can see how this commenter not only improved my blog with additional content, but also improved my podcast by suggesting a great guest. How cool is that?

Likewise, in my podcast, several minutes of the content are user-generated in every episode. I have a "listener feedback" section where people e-mail me and make comments or ask questions. Obviously, it's not a live conversation, since podcasts are time-shifted, but it is still a great way to involve listeners and include them in the creation of the content of the podcast. Some of them say afterward "Wow, I heard my name on the podcast! Cool!" This is a similar feeling to being mentioned on the radio, it's just a little thrill that's undeniable, no matter the medium or the size of the audience. Actually, the original "participatory media" is the radio call-in show. Same thing. That's part of what makes that format so valuable.

So, is the consumer gone? Not yet, of course. We all sit passively in front of our televisions and "consume" that content, and we consume the food from the grocery store, but that relationship is changing.

It's worth thinking about how this can affect your business too. Blogs and podcasts are a great way to involve customers and prospective customers. How else??

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