In a post-consumer economy, you are the product

Quinn Conklin , Co-Editor-in-Chief

Welcome to the post-consumer economy where everything is given away for free. The vision of the post-consumerist movement says that things should have value other than their price tag and purchases should be made based on need rather than vanity.

The reality of post-consumerism looks more like a way to deliver advertising.

However, as the digital age progresses, more and more services shift from a pay model to an ad-supported model. In this environment the end user of the good or service is no longer the “consumer,” but instead has been transformed into the “product.” This product is the audience that can then be sold to advertisers.

We are the raccoons for the digital furriers who create content, websites and mobile-apps to trap our attention. They skin our concentration and deliver the pelts to advertisers for a few cents.

Companies are able to make money, and I, for one, do not mind being the latest gold rush.

In the post-consumer marketplace I can use products like Facebook, Groove Shark and Angry Birds for free. Without an ad-supported model these services cost money, and, frankly, would not be worth my time. If the trade-off for accessing quality products is spending 15 seconds of my life now and then viewing an ad, I can pay that.

However, we should not be giving our attention to just any weary website offering our attention up to advertisers. We as product/consumers have the ability to create our media landscape.

Only those places to which we direct our attention will be able to offer an audience to their advertisers. If we give our attention to sites to be ironic, or share things that disturb, frighten or leave us feeling bad, we encourage that sort of “entertainment” to be produced.

As advertising supports more media and applications because of the number of users they can deliver, it becomes increasingly important for us as a society to focus our attention and time on things we like.

By being aware of the role we play in paying for these free services, we can influence the content and tools that companies provide. If they cannot deliver us a product we want, we will not be lured in to their traps, and they will have nothing to sell to advertisers.

The hit, the click through and the time spent on a given site are the currencies of this new economy. Just as we vote for products every day with our dollars in brick and mortar stores, we vote with our time when we use these free services.