Customers, Users and Losers

or...Who is the Product?

It is a common beginner mistake to consider customers and users to be the same. A little reflection soon reveals that not only are they different, their interests may not even be aligned! Let's see some examples.


Example
Vendor
Product
Customer
User
Customer-User Interest Alignment
Dining at a restaurant
Restaurant
Dining experience
The host
All diners
Good
Drawing class
Independent art teacher
Drawing lessons
Parent
Child
Good
Commercial Software License
ISV
Some software
Evaluator, Decision Maker, Procurement Person
Actual users
Fair
AWS
Amazon
IaaS
Cloud buyer
Developers
Good
Gmail
Google
Email
Advertiser
We
Poor
Facebook
Facebook
Social network
Advertiser
We
Poor
Twitter
Twitter
Microblogging network
Advertiser
We
Poor

But that doesn’t make sense. Why would Google, Facebook and Twitter create products that generate a conflict of interest between customer and user? They don’t. We’ve got the wrong picture. The product isn’t what we think it is. Here is the real deal: 
 
Example
Vendor
Product
Customer
User
Customer-User Interest Alignment
Gmail
Google
We
Advertiser
Ad platform users
Good
Facebook
Facebook
We
Advertiser
Ad platform users
Good
Twitter
Twitter
We
Advertiser
Ad platform users
Good












We are the product that is probed, segmented, analyzed and sold to the highest bidder. What we experience as the product (email, social network etc) is merely the farm meant to rear the real product – us. This is the sad inescapable reality of any business that chooses advertising instead of subscriptions as its revenue model.

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