Marketing guru Seth Godin urges companies to start calling “potential customers” and “targets” instead citizens. He means this term to be inclusive of those who have a relationship with the marketer and those who do not and to bring about a mental shift toward respect and humility.
Nice to know that journalists are ahead of the marketers on this. Every self-respecting journalist I know cringes a little when some business-side person at a conference calls readers/viewers/listeners consumers.
Indeed, many of us have lept over readers/viewers/listeners to pay “the people formerly known as the audience” a great mark of respect (from a journalist) by calling them citizen journalists.
This term has received pushback from professional journalists who don’t want amateurs claiming their status and from bloggers and contributors who don’t want to. (Some feel the calling is too difficult to take on; some may just not want journalism’s approval ratings in the 20s for many metrics.) I object to the citizen part. Although Godin uses it to include, the definition of citizen is tied to the nation-state and therefore excludes, well, non-citizens (hat tip: J.D. Lasica).
Jay Rosen’s excellent phrase used above, “the people formerly known as the audience” (perhaps building on Dan Gillmor’s “former audience”), is too long and makes us think too much for regular use. It is a seven-word manifesto. Note that it specifically does not equate the shifting balance of power (more ability to make their voices heard on the people’s part, less ability to ignore this discussion on the gatekeepers’ part) with the practice of journalism by everybody.
We need a word that reflects the technology-allowed shift of people from passive observers to the more natural state of active participants. Even the term participant, though, presumes too much- many people will be potential participants, but they are still already more than an audience.
So what are you going to call me?