Searching for the young soul fansumers

9 November 2007

I love the analysis at Bubblegeneration. But not in a good way. It's because the prophets of the microchunked hypersocial mediaconomy are laugh-out-loud wrong so often.

Take Umair Haque's "research note" trying to deflate the fansumer bubble. Yes, fansumer is an awful term. The approach, as described by Jeremiah Owyang and his acolytes, makes me want to scratch my palms until they bleed. But along comes Haque and you start to wonder whether Owyang is on to something. That really, really scares me.

Haque makes it clear:

"There are no fansumers. There are people who love products. But very rarely will they want to be pimped out and put to work on Facebook's (or anyone else's) digital streetcorner.

Are there really no fansumers?

They exist. And they are all around us. You work with these people. You might live with them (well, maybe you don't). You might even be one. But one thing is clear. They have no problem talking about their favourite brands. You might say they're almost obsessed with it. Of course, they almost certainly don't think of their favourite things in terms of being brands. And they certainly don't regard themselves as fansumers. But they are fans and they eagerly eat up the output of their chosen obsessions. That makes them consumers in my book.

Don't tell me companies don't want a piece of that. Only some of them can manage it - it's hard to envisage people 'connecting' with Mr Muscle Bathroom & Toilet Cleaner with Anti-Bacterial Action. But I have seen with my own eyes people with Nike tattoos. So, it is possible no matter how odd or even distasteful it seems to the rest of us who only go as far as watching the film, wearing the shoes or buying the CD.

Haque gives a stern lecture to the people talking about fansumers: "What we really need are better foundations, concepts which reflect economic reality. And building those takes much more critical thinking."

Damn straight.


Of course there are fansumers. I sat at a coffee cafe across from the Apple store in Palo Alto to watch people line up to buy the iPhone. That was especially amusing because thre was more than enough inventory to meet the demand that day.

But fansumers are not sufficient for building a business model. Any company that chases a fad for a quick buck is generally going to be at the tail end of the fad...and the losing end of the revenue stream.

hey, thanks but you missed the point entirely.

people certainly do love talking about the stuff they love. but they do it with and for other people - not with and for brands or firms.

equally, they love talking about the stuff they hate.

so the idea that consumers are there to be ridden like beasts of burden is not a great one.

nb - if you can name a few times we've been "laugh out loud wrong", i'd be interested to hear it.

One of us is missing the point and I don't think it's me: the only way you can say fansumers don't exist is if you apply such a narrow definition that nobody could be a fansumer.

I think we can agree that consumers should not be ridden like beasts of burden. But that has nothing to do with the declaration you made in your original post - which was in itself contradictory. You first said there aren't any and then followed it up with: "And those who want to - well, those are exactly the guys you don't want talking about you and your brands: classic adverse selection".

Which is it? Are there none or are there some?

I think that if you look at the many unofficial fan sites for bands, authors and film and TV series, it is clear that they do want a dialogue with the creators. They don't often get it but, in some cases, it happens. Some authors like to engage with their fans. It probably affects the creators more than it does the fans (who are often pretty unmoveable when it comes to the image they have about a particular 'brand'). The word brand sounds odd in the context of creative works but when you look at the debates about the direction of series such as Star Trek, it is clear that there is a lot of discussion about what that brand means.

I don't have an incentive to promote the word fansumer. I hope it dies quickly. But that does not kill a style of behaviour that has been around for years. The irony is that, as MySpace has become the place that unknown bands go to promote themselves, it's arguably better for this kind of thing than Facebook.

Laugh-out-loud wrong? Erm, Tribewanted - new social model or just a bunch of geezers with a plan for staying on a tropical island for a while?

"Open pricing" used in a completely different context to its normal use ("a price that is open and above board, that is known to both competitors and customers" - Eddy, The New Competition (1913)) when what you seem to mean is haggling with only one participant. And, in a radical, fully open system, using your definition, shouldn't I be able to set a negative price? That is, get Radiohead to pay me for listening to their album. I've got other bands to listen to, you know.

Zazzle as a radical "clothes remixer"? Only the dimmest band manager couldn't get merchandise together before this lot arrived. There have been blog owners selling stuff using custom-print suppliers for some years. What was so new and exciting about Zazzle? The MySpace deal makes it a bit easier for them to do business but hardly "really strategic innovation".


Want me to go on?


the problem is you're mixing apples and oranges. jeremiah's/facebook's "fansumers" = consumers forced to be viral vectors. your "fansumers" = user innovation.

they're fundamentally not the same thing. if it's #2, that's great. if it's #1 - well, then, i don't think many consumers will go for it.

anyways, you seem to have bit of a chip on your shoulder.

ie, "open pricing" - dude, that article you cite was written in like *1900*. social scientists haven't used that term in a very (very) long time (replaced with "price transparency").

Zazzle is not really a competitor with custom print shops, etc, as pointed out in our original post.


i think maybe you have a personal thing with me more than anything else.

that's kind of lame - i'm not really interested in it.

thx for the reply.

No, this isn't personal - I criticised your analysis not you as a person.

Do you have to be a sheeple to be a fansumer?