Monday, December 15, 2008

Prosumerism and Our Kids

More on YouTube money maker Michael Buckley and the evolution from consumer to prosumer and finally producer. Since I still have my day job and don't make any money from YouTube, blogging or podcasting, I guess that makes me barely a prosumer:) Maybe my kid and my students - all digital natives - will become producers! Grown Up Digital » YouTube Stars: when do prosumers turn into producers?
[sic] “prosumerism” - when consumers become actively involved in the creation of the goods and services they consume [sic] Back in October I wrote about a piece I was working on called Broadcasting yourself: How important is it to YouTube’s Success? One of the key findings of this research was that while YouTube’s tagline indicates the site’s popularity is driven by prosumers creating content for each other, the reality appears to be that “traditional media content” - snippets from TV programs, music videos, and the like - is far more important.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that prosumers aren’t an important part of the site. I got to thinking about this again when I read the recent NY Times piece YouTube Videos Pull in Real Money. It’s a story about how some of YouTube’s partners are now starting to make serious money from ads served on the original videos they create - with the feature story being about Michael Buckley, who has created his own celebrity chatter show.

Michael’s story looks like a classic case of prosumerism - he was an administrative assistant at a music production company who started producing a thrice-weekly (self described) “silly” show, after investing $2,000 in a camera, $6 on a piece of fabric for a backdrop, and bit more in a couple of lights. His silly show became quite popular after a full year of concerted effort, and he now receives an average of 200,000 views per video, while the most popular get millions. Now a funny thing has happened - he’s becoming so successful, and making so much money, he’s quit his other job and is now devoted to it full time.

So this leads to a simple question - is Michael a prosumer or not? I would personally argue that he was, but he isn’t anymore. After all, it’s now his full-time job - there is no fuzzy line. In turn, this brings an interesting dynamic to prosumerism on YouTube - as the business model sorts itself out on the site, it might not so much empower prosumers (because most aren’t popular enough to make an real money), but to allow the most popular prosumers to turn into full-time producers - a subtle but important difference.

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