We $5 noobs are safe, at least May 18, 2011 5:17 AM   Subscribe

blue_beetle's comment "If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold" was quoted on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Hungry Beast TV show (0:55 onwards).
posted by UbuRoivas to MetaFilter-Related at 5:17 AM (118 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Unfortunately, I was only able to watch the video by turning my monitor upside down.
posted by gman at 5:27 AM on May 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


¿noʎ ʇ,uop 'ʎuunɟ s,ʇɐɥʇ ʞuıɥʇ noʎ ǝsoddns ı
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:29 AM on May 18, 2011 [17 favorites]


Why do only things that are wrong get repeated?
posted by DU at 5:33 AM on May 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


Aww, I turned my monitor upside down and I still couldn't watch the video.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:34 AM on May 18, 2011


I've been informed that it may only be viewable from within Australia. Shame; it was an alright little animated infographic, including bits of text on MetaFilter Blue.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:36 AM on May 18, 2011


I'm sure those royalty checks (aka cheques) will start rolling in any minute now. Don't worry I won't forget you guys when I'm sailing my space yacht.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:38 AM on May 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


Why do only things that are wrong get repeated?

Because people like things that are interesting and emotionally satisfying, rather than merely true.*

With that said, while it's not a universal truth I think it is a good rule of thumb, especially when applied to the internet and media companies generally. Metafilter is a bit of a weird case because we don't have to see ads, but our comments are used to attract non-members, and their attention is the product that Matt sells to the advertisers. But it's pretty direct for most free websites and services, newspapers, TV channels, loyalty cards, etc.

*Yes, this too is incomplete and I say it a lot even if no-one else does. But it's a quick (albeit dirty) way of conveying the gist of a bigger argument that has a good general applicability. Like the original quote.
posted by metaBugs at 6:12 AM on May 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


If you're not paying for it, you can't even view it upside down. At least I am not and can't.
posted by Namlit at 6:18 AM on May 18, 2011


Oh wait. I did pay. I did pay. Best five bucks ever spent, I suddenly remember...
posted by Namlit at 6:19 AM on May 18, 2011


It was also in this week's b3ta newsletter (see the last item under "Sites in Brief").
posted by slogger at 6:19 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do only things that are wrong get repeated?
posted by scruss at 6:31 AM on May 18, 2011 [22 favorites]


Is this the IRL equivalent of receiving a favorite?
posted by Eideteker at 6:35 AM on May 18, 2011


I saw what you did there, scruss. That means that I'm smart. Do I get pie now. Please.
posted by Namlit at 6:37 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Poor ideopath...
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:40 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


UbuRoivas: I've been informed that it may only be viewable from within Australia.

You were informed of it in the first comment.
posted by gman at 6:40 AM on May 18, 2011


Why do only things that are wrong get repeated?

Because nothing short enough and assertive enough to make for a punchy soundbite has room for the kind of qualifying and on-the-other-handing that a balanced explanation of a complex topic requires, and the sociophsychological bias toward conciseness (an indirect result of the constraints of e.g. human short term memory and information processing facilities) excuses and even encourages imperfect but potent conceptual framings. The underlying tension between brief vs. exact explanations is inescapable but, when pressed for time, will tend to break toward the short version rather than the detailed one.

Wait, let me try that again:

Brevity is the soul of wit.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:58 AM on May 18, 2011 [69 favorites]


I'm sure those royalty checks (aka cheques) will start rolling in any minute now

According to the maxim, you're just a "product being sold".
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:03 AM on May 18, 2011


I'm really not sure this comment is the original utterance of that phrase. I've read/heard it all over within the past year, starting before August 2010. Here are some Google results that show it was already in use.
posted by Miko at 7:11 AM on May 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


It was a great comment and I got it for free which makes me angry that blue_beetle is exploiting me for his own monetary gain.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:14 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


It was a great comment and I got it for free which makes me angry that blue_beetle is exploiting me for his own monetary gain

According to the maxim, we now own you.

DANCE FOR US, SHAKESPHEREIAN! DANCE!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:19 AM on May 18, 2011


In the news today: Kord Industries!
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:24 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Okay.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:25 AM on May 18, 2011


NOW BAKE COOKIES FOR US, SHAKESPHEREIAN! BAKE!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:31 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Previous, previous. Sort of interesting to see the variations on responses, sometimes from the same people.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:32 AM on May 18, 2011


Heh. This would make an interesting case study for the phrase mavens.
posted by Miko at 7:35 AM on May 18, 2011


Cookies
posted by shakespeherian at 7:44 AM on May 18, 2011


Brevity is the soul of wit.

"If you are not paying for it, you're probably not the customer; you're the product being sold"

Done. Not only more accurate, but "probably" is an invitation to think during every transaction ("is this one of those?") rather than dogmatically assuming one or the other cases.
posted by DU at 7:47 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do only things that are wrong get repeated?

The medium is the message.

Anyhow, I don't think it's wrong, it's just oversimplified. At heart I think it's an accurate sentiment, even w/r/t MetaFilter. Which is fine, because people enjoy being commodified and consumed nearly as much as they enjoy consuming commodities.
posted by hermitosis at 7:48 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the news today: Kord Industries!

Well done.
posted by josher71 at 7:50 AM on May 18, 2011


"If you are not paying for it, you're probably not the customer; you're the product being sold"

"If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're probably the product being sold."

I still prefer the original to either of those. The "probably" spoils it a little, and I think the comment encourages thought even without it.
posted by jonnyploy at 7:52 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cookies

NOW SOME PORNOGRAPHY, SHAKESPHEREIAN! WE TIRE OF DANCING AND COOKIES! PORNOGRAPHY!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:52 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]



"If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're probably the product being sold."


I run only free software at home, most of it from the Debian/Ubuntu repositories. I don't feel particularly exploited by it. But FOSS is a much different animal from Facebook.

There are still genuinely free things in the world, but in the context of profit driven companies and corporations... much less so.

But yeah, sound bytes are catchier than dissertations, and in the specific context that quote was originally used, and is often used since, it is true.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:10 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's an accurate sentiment, even w/r/t MetaFilter.

More than one person here has said something like this. "Even" MetaFilter? MetaFilter is a *confirming* example, albeit a benign one. The (attention of) users of MetaFilter are the product that new users buy. That's why you can read the site but not post until you join.

My go-to *counter*example is the world of free software.
posted by DU at 8:11 AM on May 18, 2011


It was also spotted in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. this morning where they claim Siva Vaidhyanathan wrote it about Google. Paragraph five, first sentence.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:11 AM on May 18, 2011


Y... you tire of dancing and cookies?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:13 AM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


My point in correcting the quote is not mere pedantry. It's the quote buys into, if you will, the captialistic/consumerist mindset that it is a law of nature That Nothing Is Free. It's just not true. We humans have set up a system in which it is largely true and it is getting truer all the time for those caught in the system. But it doesn't have to be. By showing things that really are free, and systems for making/keeping them that way, maybe we can change that.
posted by DU at 8:14 AM on May 18, 2011 [9 favorites]



My point in correcting the quote is not mere pedantry. It's the quote buys into, if you will, the captialistic/consumerist mindset that it is a law of nature That Nothing Is Free. It's just not true. We humans have set up a system in which it is largely true and it is getting truer all the time for those caught in the system. But it doesn't have to be. By showing things that really are free, and systems for making/keeping them that way, maybe we can change that.


A thousand times yes.
And time is not money, although it can sometimes be advantageous to think of it that way.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:17 AM on May 18, 2011


The medium is the message.

I admit I have never understood what this famous Marshall McLuhan quote means.

If I read something in the newspaper, the message isn't what the words say, the message is "paper"? When I watch an advertisement on television, the message is "TV", or maybe it's "radio waves"?

I don't get it.
posted by FishBike at 8:17 AM on May 18, 2011


If you are not paying for it, you're probably not the customer; you're the product being sold.

I think the probably is in the wrong place here. If you're not paying for it, you're definitely not the customer. You might also not be the product being sold, but you probably are.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:20 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Y... you tire of dancing and cookies?

DANCING COOKIE PORN WOULD BE ACCEPTABLE, SHAKESPHEREIAN. ACCEPTABLE!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:24 AM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


My point in correcting the quote is probably not mere pedantry.

Done. Probably.
posted by Drastic at 8:25 AM on May 18, 2011


He means 'medium' in sort of a different and broader way than you tend to think, but it's an idea that's become fairly widespread since McLuhan posited it. It's about the way that the architecture of information is usually more influential on a society than the information itself. Think 24-hour news networks, for example. Pre-McLuhan, critical theorists focused on the individual news stories to see what they communicate to people, whereas post-McLuhan thought is that it's more important to focus on how the existence, structure, and design of a 24-hour news network communicates to people. Ignore what someone is saying and look at how they're saying it to see what they're really communicating.

McLuhan's favorite example, actually is a lightbulb: it creates an environment simply by existing, but doesn't have any 'content' at all.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:25 AM on May 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


FishBike: I admit I have never understood what this famous Marshall McLuhan quote means.

"The medium shapes the message" is not as catchy, I guess. In practice, I find it an extremely prescient explanation of how media like twitter and SMS are shaping both what we choose to communicate and how we choose to communicate it.
posted by vanar sena at 8:28 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I admit I have never understood what this famous Marshall McLuhan quote means.


It means that any given medium has its own strengths and weaknesses, and is therefore only capable of broadcasting the kind of information that fits within those limitations.

Some things "work" on television, and some don't. Therefore, if you watch television, you're most likely to only see things that "work" on television. And if you wind up watching something that doesn't "work" on television, chances are you'll switch over to something else. Relying on one primary medium as your source of information/entertainment guarantees that you'll enjoy only a limited sliver of the full range of perspectives and experiences -- only what fits through that window.

It's just as true of smart phones and PDA's as it was of TV, or anything else, as we begin conforming our messages and our culture to fit into the predominant medium.
posted by hermitosis at 8:30 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The medium shapes the message" is not as catchy, I guess.

Maybe not as catchy, but it's instantly understandable to a pedantic high school dropout such as myself. Thanks!
posted by FishBike at 8:34 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even now when I read the, uh, 'word' PDA I see kids kissing in the cafeteria instead of Palm Pilots.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:34 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


probably

There's no place for subtlety, no place for weasel words. Ideas should be simple and snappy, with no wiggle room. Proability and chance are dirty words. Certainty always.

So legal and communications keep telling me. No qualifiers, ever.
posted by bonehead at 8:37 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


McLuhan was talking about how his tailor would, rather than complain directly about not being paid promptly, make McLuhan's clothing ill-sized. When Marshall was expecting a small and hadn't written a check yet for last months' work, the medium was the message.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:41 AM on May 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you're not paying for it, you're definitely not the customer. You might also not be the product being sold, but you probably are.

If "customer" is defined as "person who pays" then obviously. But I take it to mean "person for whom the creator is laboring". In which case, it isn't true. I'm the "customer" in this sense of many webcomics, all of which I read for free.
posted by DU at 8:41 AM on May 18, 2011


If "customer" is defined as "person who pays" then obviously. But I take it to mean "person for whom the creator is laboring". In which case, it isn't true. I'm the "customer" in this sense of many webcomics, all of which I read for free.

Indeed, you can define the word "customer" to mean any number of things that it is not generally understood to mean, if you so desire.

Why, on the way to work this morning, I saw a whole customer of monkeys. Had to have been 20 or 30 of them. They were picking customers from a tree to peel and eat. They sure looked customer!
posted by toomuchpete at 8:52 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Well, most of which I read for free. I recently bought in to Nina Paley's Kickstartr project and I've purchased book versions of more than one webcomic. But I'm not obligated to pay, which is the real point here.)
posted by DU at 8:53 AM on May 18, 2011


McLuhan was talking about how his tailor would, rather than complain directly about not being paid promptly, make McLuhan's clothing ill-sized. When Marshall was expecting a small and hadn't written a check yet for last months' work, the medium was the message.

Boo, hiss.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:53 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think there are better words -- like "audience" -- to describe that kind of non-transactional relationship. "Customer" carries with it a bunch of additional baggage, like the right to expect a certain level of service. I don't doubt there are web comic readers who feel that they've reached the status of customer by virtue of reading the web comic, and make those demands, but they don't really have that right.

And if the web comic is on a page with advertising, you're the product.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:57 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm really not sure this comment is the original utterance of that phrase.

In so many words, it probably is. In terms of overall intent, I'm guessing the notion goes back at least forty or fifty years to Mr. McLuhan, as suggested already. Or failing that, there's the Situationist International.

As for rewording of the actual phrase, I'd go for something like:

"If you are not paying for it, you're clearly not the customer; so you might want to explore the degree to which your attention span is the product being sold"

Oh, that hungry Spectacle.
posted by philip-random at 9:02 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If "customer" is defined as "person who pays" then obviously. But I take it to mean "person for whom the creator is laboring". In which case, it isn't true. I'm the "customer" in this sense of many webcomics, all of which I read for free.

Inverting that comment is the whole point of the aphorism. It is meant to force one to consider the hidden motivations which shape content, use, and collection of data when somebody interacts with an apparently free resource. Just because something is free for you to use does not mean its production is motivated solely by altruism; if the creator is receiving a benefit from another source (an advertizer, a patron, a marketer) they will be forced to accommodate the desires of their patron in ways that you may find undesirable or detrimental. That's the whole point. Except I explained it in 100 words and blue beetle did it in a couple dozen.
posted by Diablevert at 9:05 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's just not true.

The product always says that.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:11 AM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


(Well, most of which I read for free. I recently bought in to Nina Paley's Kickstartr project and I've purchased book versions of more than one webcomic. But I'm not obligated to pay, which is the real point here.)

Do you email links to the ones you like? Tell people about them? You may not be obligated to pay money, nor are you obligated to perform any marketing duties, but creators of free (as in doesn't cost you money) content do count on you to tell other people about that content, and a lot of us oblige.
posted by rtha at 9:15 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Content ...for sale.

Appetizing young eyeballs for sale.

Content sweet and unspoiled

Guaranteed comment whirl

Content for saaaaaaale.
posted by The Whelk at 9:36 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even the "free" programs at the museums I work for have a cost. It's true that if you're not paying to get in and keep the lights open and hire the presenter, someone is, often a grantor or donor.

There are things that are free, and I like DU's take on how the statement buys into capitalism-as-default, but I also appreciate the way it makes people reflect on why they consider something to be free just because they don't pay out of pocket for it. When talking about how to help musicians, newspapers and magazines, radio stations or community nonprofits survive, I find it helpful in reminding people that there are costs which someone has to pick up, and just because you don't get a bill doesn't mean it might not make sense for you to contribute to the support of the media you enjoy.
posted by Miko at 9:41 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I uttered this exact phrase myself back in the 80's with respect to television. It's not even a question of the general sentiment not being new - the phrase is literally not new either.

But I didn't watch the clip, perhaps they were quoting him directly or something.
posted by GuyZero at 9:51 AM on May 18, 2011


It's not the medium, it's the humidity.
posted by Babblesort at 10:04 AM on May 18, 2011


I like deep tissue messages with a happy ending.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:07 AM on May 18, 2011


I like deep tissue messages with a happy ending.

"Customer, product, whatever, sir. You still have to pay the $20, same as in town."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:18 AM on May 18, 2011


Can we get a rerecording of this?

I AM THE PRODUCT

*do dee do do*

YOU'RE JUST THE CUSTOMER
posted by The Whelk at 10:28 AM on May 18, 2011


blue beetle did it in a couple dozen.

Actually just 16 words (and it could have easily been 13).
posted by John Cohen at 10:28 AM on May 18, 2011


Everything I want has a cost: Financial, emotional, my attention, devotion, time, etc. In this case, being the product is the price paid for obtaining something for free. Hence, it really isn't free. So that means I paid for it, making me a customer. Aaaaannnd the customer is always right.


AMIRIGHT? ... *sticks fingers in ears* LALALALALALALALALALALALALALALA
posted by Debaser626 at 10:39 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm really not sure this comment is the original utterance of that phrase. I've read/heard it all over within the past year, starting before August 2010. Here are some Google results that show it was already in use.

Note that Google's "search by date" feature kinda sucks.

Google: "Here's a reference to it as early as February 2001!"

Let's just see, shall we?

http://quotes.myles.id.au/:
Quotes I Like for a Variety of Reasons
...
If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.
Andrew Lewis
...
So I'm guessing that the other search results you've found *probably* are quoting the same thing, and Google is getting the dates all wrong.

Note that this quote really does have legs; it's all over the place. Hell, Wall Street Journal calls it a truism:
The dispute is also a reminder that free services such as Facebook and Google come with a price. Consumers need to keep a truism in mind: If you're not paying for the product, then you're not the customer—you're the product being sold.
It is up to blue_beetle to disclose whether that popped into his head or if he'd heard it before, but it certainly wasn't a "truism" that I'd encountered prior to it showing up on MetaFilter.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:10 AM on May 18, 2011


Hey you guys, blue_beetle totally did not say this because he copied me. I said this in aught five and that's because I condensed it down from the free floating memes in the ether.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:44 AM on May 18, 2011


No, it was my aphorism. I mentioned it to him while he was buying me a lunch. "But also, hey, free software exists," I continued, but he cruelly ignored that bit.

On the bright side that was the day that I had lunch for free, so chalk one up for cortex.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:49 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


lol. I won't pretend that it's an original idea, but I wasn't quoting or paraphrasing anyone that I was aware of. I've also been working on my next "big thing" for months now. So far I've got:

* If you're not productive, you're being soiled.
* Pay for products, if they are sold.
* If you're not smelling it, you may have dealt it.

I think they still need a bit of work.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:58 AM on May 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


I run only free software at home, most of it from the Debian/Ubuntu repositories. I don't feel particularly exploited by it.

This and other comments seem to suppose he's speaking of anything and everything that you don't have to pay for. I never for a moment supposed he meant anything but for-profit web services, and within that stricture, I think it is a very reliable statement.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:18 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: only what fits through that window.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:22 PM on May 18, 2011


I admit I have never understood what this famous Marshall McLuhan quote means.

When McLuhan talks about "media" (plural) or "medium" (singular) he's really talking about the act of mediation - this is what media is. Media is any substrate on which information can be imparted. This can be paper, canvas, photographic paper, a radio wave, a beam of light, a tablet of clay, a record, a CD, a cave wall - anything that can be used to transmit information.

What he tries to demonstrate in the graphics-typography book "The Medium is the Message" is that each of these various kinds of media has a different way of mediating that information - the physical limitations and constraints of any given media substrate deeply color the information being presented. Television as a medium doesn't handle painting well, or printed words. A painted canvas would be a poor choice for video, or a novel.

But it's more than just how media substrates influence the content - it's that these substrates have their own message. They're not neutral, colorless things.

The physical/logistical requirements of television as a substrate - and our attention span and time constraints - are what caused the rise of "modern broadcast television". It naturally lends itself to short attention span teleplays. It lends itself to one-to-many broadcasts of news, of commercials, of announcements. But broadcast television has many constraints.

And these constraints in television as a medium have guided and influenced the thinking of several generations at this point. The 24 hour news cycle, the soundbite, the attack interview... all of these are products of television as a medium combined with how humans interact with that medium.

So, even without content - television has it's own message. It influences the content that can be imparted to it as a substrate.

This happens with all media whether it's a cake pan or stained glass or printed books.

Think of the differences between doodling in a pocket notebook out in the field or on the go as contrasted with working at home with a proper easel and a full set of charcoal or pencils. Each scenario will produce different content due to things as simple as the size of the paper. If you're a naturalist trying to sketch pictures of wildflowers, maybe a small notebook is better, so you're more mobile. You get to see and sketch more flowers. If you're an artist or illustrator trying to draw or paint a still life scene, maybe you'll get better results if you pick some flowers and bring them home to work on in the studio.

So what he's trying to say is that all media has a texture. It can be a literal texture like the texture of canvas or it can be a logistical texture like the limitations of newsprint, or most importantly it can be a philosophical/metaphorical texture like how television primarily lends itself to short attention span viewing.

Does that help any? I know it's a rather meta concept. It's like kind of like saying "nothingness isn't nothingness, it has a shape or color" if you're not already used to thinking about how media works.
posted by loquacious at 12:29 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]




I enjoy EPMD's 'You're a Customer.'
posted by box at 12:41 PM on May 18, 2011


And time is not money, although it can sometimes be advantageous to think of it that way.

Wait, what? And all this time I thought rich people fell faster.
posted by johnofjack at 12:48 PM on May 18, 2011


So which of us works for the hungry beast?
posted by mosessis at 12:51 PM on May 18, 2011


A stitch in time may save a number of stitches, or it may not; you may wish to set up a control.

A bird, or any other organism, in the hand, or other grasping member, could be more valuable in the bush or elsewhere, depending on various external factors, as well as how one chooses to define 'bird', 'value' and 'bush'.

People who live in glass houses may in some circumstances find it counterproductive to throw stones, although the same can often be said of people who live in more conventional accommodation.

You may be able to teach an old dog new tricks; it really depends on the dog, and the tricks, and your teaching style.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:52 PM on May 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


What's sauce for the goose will often be sauce for the gander, although one cannot always rely on a goose, or indeed a gander, to define 'sauce' to the complete satisfaction of its opposite-gender counterpart.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:56 PM on May 18, 2011


Early to bed and early to rise makes a man likely to miss late night talk shows unless he Tivos them or watches clips on Hulu I guess.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:58 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


He who hesitates is able to further consider the situation and incorporate new data into his planning model.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:04 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


So I'm guessing that the other search results you've found *probably* are quoting the same thing, and Google is getting the dates all wrong.

I'm sure there are mistaken results in there, but I am definitely willing to bet they are not all wrong. The idea has long been in circulation, if not this exact phrasing. You can feel more certain by searching for the phrase with date range limits on Google News and Google Books.

For instance, 2003 book Living Simply With Children includes the statement "You aren't really being sold products but rather you are the product being sold to advertisers...".In 2009, in the book Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, the author writes "...if you are a fan of Top Chef or The Real Housewives, you are the product being sold to advertisers..." In an interview published in this 1994 book, artist Richard Serra was asked to comment on a film he produced in 1973, Television Delivers People, which contained the text "In commercial broadcasting the viewer pays for the privilege of having himself sold. It is the consumer who is consumed. You are delivered to the advertiser, who is the costomer. He consumes you. The viewer is not responsible for programming. You are the end product. You are the product of TV."

The News search reveals similar variations on the thought that predate summer 2010.

On May 24, 2010, a Newsweek piece about Facebook says "The truth is, Zuckerberg needs your data. His business is built upon it. The most important thing to understand about Facebook is that you are not Facebook’s customer, you are its inventory. You are the product Facebook is selling. Facebook’s real customers are advertisers. " A comment on CNET notes in 2007, "Remember that on Facebook you are the product being sold." On May 18, 2010, another commenter says of Google, You arent their consumer you are the product."

It's the kind of truism that I think has been around so long that it's in the air. There's even a quote from Mad Men (Season 1, 2007-08) in which Don Draper presents Rule #1: "You are the product."
posted by Miko at 1:04 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm Marshall McLuhan's tailor, and you know nothing of my work.
posted by Challahtronix at 1:16 PM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Man I wish life was like that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:18 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


A bird in the hand is worth market value, assuming it's fresh.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:18 PM on May 18, 2011


He who hesitates is transmogrified into midday prandial component.
posted by likeso at 1:21 PM on May 18, 2011


It's the kind of truism that I think has been around so long that it's in the air

Sure, but it is specific formulations of ideas which resonate that are important. Do you think no-one ever said anything expressing the same idea as L'etat, c'est moi before Louis XIV? And yet that's what we remember.
posted by Justinian at 1:42 PM on May 18, 2011


it is specific formulations of ideas which resonate that are important.

Mmm...I disagree. I think it is ideas which are important.
posted by Miko at 1:49 PM on May 18, 2011


...the formulations are just sticky.
posted by Miko at 1:49 PM on May 18, 2011


Two men of ethnicities we consider benign along with a third man of an ethnicity we don't like walk into a bar. An extraordinary circumstance arises and the two men of whose ethnicities we approve conduct themselves in constructive but unsurprising ways. When it is the third man's turn to take action, he does (or possibly says) something which is not only against his own interests but surprising in a humorous way.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:55 PM on May 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


it's funny because it's true
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:56 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be yet more pedantic, I think the idea has been true a long time, but the only people who gave a shit were critics of media and culture who did not like the sense of being a product. I think it's emerged as a useful concept for vastly larger numbers of people only now that the information age has reached a point where advertising-based revenue models are pervasive, not just on TV and radio, and where data about participation can easily be tracked and monetized. It affects more people now, and everyone has had personal interactions with the concept, whether it's through music "sharing," being asked to pay to view or read certain content, or deciding how much information to provide to Google, Facebook, or any other data-gathering company. It's not that the idea is new, but that the awareness of people of the importance of this idea is suddenly a lot more widespread than it was when people were thinking about it 40 or 50 years ago, that is giving it lightning legs right now.
posted by Miko at 1:59 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or maybe that the internet is a fairly new and emergent media that has also brought new advertising strategies to the forefront?
posted by P.o.B. at 2:07 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


So which of us works for the hungry beast?

The name of the person behind that piece is at the bottom of the transcript & video originally linked, not that it sheds any light on their meta-identity, and they may be a lurker or may have arrived here via digg or elsewhere anyway, as blue_beetle's comment was reposted in a number of places.

The show itself is interesting enough, if a bit glib and "by YOUNG PEOPLE!! for YOUNG PEOPLE!!!" for my tastes. The brainchild of funnyman & interview maestro Andrew Denton, "The show launched in 2009 after a nationwide search for young people (all under 30) new to mainstream television. The presenters, producers, reporters, researchers, shooter/directors, graphic designers, editors and writers were drawn from across Australia. The idea was to offer a fresh take on the world from a generation grown up in the digital age." so finding quotes & things on the web should be their bread & butter.

By way of disclosure, I just noticed that I know one of the presenters, or at least, I met her a few times maybe around 10 years ago when she played drums for a friend's band. I don't think that's really self-linky, more just the nature of inner-city life & degrees of separation.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:18 PM on May 18, 2011


Early to bed and early to rise makes a man likely to miss late night talk shows unless he Tivos them or watches clips on Hulu I guess.

That, and an early cat catches the bird.
posted by Namlit at 3:05 PM on May 18, 2011


I've always said, "The early bird catches the worm. The early worm is screwed."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:16 PM on May 18, 2011


The show itself is interesting enough, if a bit glib and "by YOUNG PEOPLE!! for YOUNG PEOPLE!!!" for my tastes.

So... it's The Sound of Young Australia?
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:33 PM on May 18, 2011


It gets less attractive the longer you think of it. In my example the bird is screwed, but the early car gets the cat. Better stay in bed and wait till the mess is cleaned up, say I. Especially if It's raining on top of everything else, too.
posted by Namlit at 3:34 PM on May 18, 2011


So... it's The Sound of Young Australia?

I see what you did there. My line was a reference to this Ben Elton bit on The Young Ones.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:56 PM on May 18, 2011


The google results people are digging up aren't going nearly far back enough.

I posted these last time:

Richard Serra's Television Delivers People (1973).

Noam Chomsky's "What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream" (1997), implying that you are the product even when you are paying for it (with reference to the "worldwide web"):
Take the New York Times. It’s a corporation and sells a product. The product is audiences. They don’t make money when you buy the newspaper. They are happy to put it on the worldwide web for free. They actually lose money when you buy the newspaper. But the audience is the product. The product is privileged people, just like the people who are writing the newspapers, you know, top-level decision-making people in society. You have to sell a product to a market, and the market is, of course, advertisers (that is, other businesses). Whether it is television or newspapers, or whatever, they are selling audiences. Corporations sell audiences to other corporations.
posted by nobody at 4:07 PM on May 18, 2011


Oops, I missed the Serra reference in Miko's comment.
posted by nobody at 4:10 PM on May 18, 2011


Why do only things that are wrong get repeated?

Because Australians are inveterately cynical and suspicious of new things, especially new technology.

Still, Hungry Beast isn't too bad. Is Mark Fennel still on it? He's a good guy. I applied for the show, but didn't get it.

The quote does fit perfectly in with the Australian 'everything sucks. Especially American things, or new things, or fancy things' mindset.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:27 PM on May 18, 2011


What's sauce for the goose will often be sauce for the gander

Mmm, duck sauce.
posted by arcticseal at 8:11 PM on May 18, 2011


Someone pick up LiB's dummy. I can't reach from here.
posted by pompomtom at 10:12 PM on May 18, 2011


Looks too fancy, and probably newer than 1970. I'm not touching it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:28 AM on May 19, 2011


Fool me once -- take on me. Fool me twice -- take me on. I'll be gone in a day or twooooooooooo
posted by eddydamascene at 12:35 AM on May 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Because Australians are inveterately cynical and suspicious of new things, especially new technology.

Fun fact: whenever big players in the tech sector want to trial a new product through a soft release, guess where their perfect petri dish is? Adelaide.

Somehow or other, it's supposedly the ideal microcosm for the US, in terms of demographics, technology uptake, disposable income, big enough to give realistic results but small enough to manage, and far away enough that massive snafus won't reach the press.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:40 AM on May 19, 2011


For banks, it's NZ.
posted by pompomtom at 12:50 AM on May 19, 2011


Yeah, true. That's why the public transport smartcards in Auckland & Wellington had contactless RFID technology for micropayments - something just gaining traction now in Australia.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:54 AM on May 19, 2011


*glares at myki terminal*

Bloody kiwis...
posted by pompomtom at 1:14 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're not paying for it, you're definitely not the customer. You might also not be the product being sold, but you probably are.

If you're not paying for it, you're definitely not the customer and you might also not be the product being sold right now, but someone somewhere has spotted that loophole and is looking into monetising either you or the product/service.

Short, snappy, to the point.
posted by Summer at 1:30 AM on May 19, 2011


If you're not buying, you're probably being sold.
posted by Grangousier at 2:42 AM on May 19, 2011


nb; bs.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:05 AM on May 19, 2011


"The Medium is the Message" means that what a medium like television or novels transmit is primarily the habits that go along with using or consuming them, and only secondarily any particular story or idea. The primary media are speech and text, and the habits that accompany each go through new perturbations when we find new ways of transmitting them.

So, for instance, radio is an intimate push medium: you can't respond, it whispers in your ear when you're all alone in your car or home, and so it engenders habits of passivity and persuasion. Only a few people can be talking on the differebt radio stations at a time: the majority listen, inviting those voices into their private lives in a way that bypasses critical reflection.

In contrast, the message board medium is interactive, it promotes dialogue, argument, and a kind of jittery attention: reloading the page to see if there are new responses, staying up late to finish arguments, etc. "The medium is the message": media convey habits.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:08 AM on May 19, 2011


If it ain't your money, it ain't you, honey.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:56 AM on May 19, 2011


I've always said, "The early bird catches the worm. The early worm is screwed."

The version I enjoy is, "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:02 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh. At Webvisions, Doug Rushkoff just spent two minutes on a very close paraphrase of this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:35 PM on May 26, 2011


Cha-ching! And blue_beetle gets another very close approximation to royalties.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:38 PM on May 26, 2011


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