Data Commodification

A controversial topic. Internet users value free content but are often disturbed by the thought that the collection of data or the viewing of adverts is necessary to pay for the free content they desire.1

The economic role of adverts in media is a fairly simple one, such as in TV advertising:

This cycle is a theoretical model of how TV advertising “should” work, where the green arrows represent the flow of money.

Thus by watching Television and participating in this cycle viewers create economic value/movement. (a similar point is raised by Goldberg 2).

In the online sphere users participating and watching adverts also create value. User data can bring financial gain as it can be used for research to better understand the public and their wants/demands or it can be used to make advertising more relevant and thus more effective [i.e. targeted advertising]. 1 & 3 A saying circulated online is “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” 4 However, most data collection is legal  and based on consent given by the user prior to joining an online service. [Exceptions to this are when online platforms breach the law or their own commitments such as in the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal. 5]

What options does this leave for businesses that want to advertise more, without paying extortionate TV advertising fees or getting involved with online data mining? One possibility is to promote one’s business on social media by making a Facebook or Twitter page. This way you do not get involved with data mining and demographic research practcies but only promote to those who of their own volition liked your page and chose to stay up to date with your business’s activity. It is a cheaper alternative to TV advertising as the main costs are the wages of the person (or people) administrating the social media page; which means paying someone inside your own company to do this job or outsourcing it to a company like ours: Recent Media Ltd.

Contact us for more information to see what we could do for you.




1 Kennedy, Helen, and Giles Moss. “Known or Knowing Publics? Social Media Data Mining and the Question of Public Agency.” Big Data & Society 2, no. 2 (2015): 205395171561114. doi:10.1177/2053951715611145.
Kennedy, Helen, Dag Elgesem, and Cristina Miguel. “On Fairness.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 23, no. 3 (2015): 270-88. doi:10.1177/1354856515592507.

2 Goldberg, Greg. “Rethinking the Public/virtual Sphere: The Problem with Participation.” New Media & Society 13, no. 5 (2010): 739-54. doi:10.1177/1461444810379862.

3 Datta, Amit, Anupam Datta, Jael Makagon, Deirdre K. Mulligan, and Michael Carl Tschantz. “Discrimination in Online Advertising: A Multidisciplinary Inquiry.” Proceedings of the 1st Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency, in PMLR 81:20-34 (2018).
Kox, Henk, Bas Straathof, and Gijsbert Zwart. “Targeted Advertising, Platform Competition, and Privacy.” Journal of Economics & Management Strategy 26, no. 3 (2017): 557-70. doi:10.1111/jems.12200.

4 Garson. “You’re Not the Customer; You’re the Product.” Quote Investigator. Accessed November 13, 2018.

5 Newton, Casey. “The 5 Biggest Takeaways from Mark Zuckerberg’s Appearance before the Senate.” The Verge. April 11, 2018. Accessed November 13, 2018.