Work in the media cannot be seen as exclusive to those professionally employed by the industry. Indeed, work in the media to some extent exists as 'free labor': the work consumers to do read, watch, surf and listen (thus delivering audiences to media organizations to be sold to advertisers), and - increasingly - the work we do as 'produsers', 'prosumers' and 'co-creators' of media content and experiences.
Consider these recent examples:
- The Firefox web browser organizes a competition (FirefoxFlicks) for the best user-generated video advertisement;
- Under the banner of 'citizen reporters' people from all over the world are volunteering their journalism skills to commercial news organizations, offering significant added value to such sites.
- The massive multiplayer game Project Entropia asks players to create their own ads within the persistent game environment, letting them buy time on virtual billboards;
- CNN solliciting 'citizen journalists' to send them their home-made videos of the devastation of hurricane Katrina;
- All kinds of television shows are increasingly relying on highly profitable SMS-TV cell phone participation schemes to include viewers in the show's progress and end-results, and as an example the movie American Dreamz advertises itself with the slogan: "Imagine a country where more people vote for a pop idol than their next president";
- pictures made by people using their mobile phones uploaded to news sites during and after the London bombings;
- The movie company Participant Productions (behind such films as Syriana, North Country, and Fast-Food Nation) offers opportunities to get engaged and participate in all kinds of activism target-marketed around the topics of their films;
- people generating podcasts that feature songs from artists marketed by the few corporate giants left in the music industry;
- Book reviews offered by customers at Amazon.com, generating significant online buzz that in fact influences sales. Interestingly enough, my students last semester interviewed some of the top reviewers at Amazon, and this is what some of them said about why they write reviews for the company (what follows are quotes from different persons): "Receive free review copies and creates awareness for my writing"; "By gaining a high reviewer ranking, you become popular on the site. If you become popular, sometimes people and companies will approach you to review their items - and often they provide complementary copies"; "It's an interesting hobby. I'm constantly learning more about writing,enjoy being "helpful" for products that have no or few adequate reviews, and I also get free books (sometimes DVDs & CDs) from people who wish their books, etc. reviewed."
It must be clear from this incredibly incomplete list that consumers are implicitly and increasingly (also) doing the 'work' in media work...
PS: the image here was made by Daz Smith and is available at his Mustard site.