OPINION16 October 2009

Incentives 2.0? Respondents on the open market

An iPhone app hints at a world where respondents price their own opinions.

The Ethnosnacker blog describes an “ethnographic iPhone app” (link below). Here’s the thing that really interested me, though:

I explained that it would allow as-live collaboration for field anthropologists/ethnographers, tagged video, still, audio and text capture, co-discoveries and more. All on an iPhone. He sat transfixed, much to my pleasant surprise, before saying:

“So let me get this straight, your App will enable people like me whose private information, habits, purchases, etc. are of such huge value to large companies to capture and sell my habits and behaviours?”

This touches on something I’ve been wondering about: if our information as ‘consumers’ is valuable, shouldn’t we be able to make money out of it?

Well yes, and of course we DO make money out of it. But the current systems for us making money out of it are very unwieldy. We join a panel, they contact us with a survey, we go through a screener, if we make the grade we might get some money for completing it. If we’re in a “hard to reach” group we might get bigger incentives, but somewhere along the line there’s usually a flat rate involved. In the rush to redefine online and mobile research, discussion of “incentives 2.0” has often been missing.

But apps like the one described allow us to imagine a future where data is more often sold – and priced – at the individual level.

For instance, I’m a male, 30something social media worker – what are my opinions worth? More or less than a 19 year old student blogger? What if the survey is about social media decision making? What if it’s about trainers? If I’ve been collecting and packaging the data myself, via an app, does that change its value?

We’re probably talking about tiny amounts here (ESPECIALLY for male 30something social media workers!) but not necessarily smaller than the small scale transactions sites like eBay or Amazon Marketplace handle all the time.

And if a free market in respondents dios open up, what does that mean for panels? Brokers of the most valuable? Or perhaps collective bargainers for the least – a rethink of the consumer panel as a kind of trade union for research respondents!


1 Comment

13 years ago

the thing about this app, by the sound of it, is that people would maybe pay attention to how they convey the information ie try and do it rather well, as they are 'selling' their POV on the open market, as it were we often ask people to do semi-ethnographic things as part of qual research (the ugly sounding 'pre-task' eg take pictures of them eating ice cream, keep a diary about clothes shopping etc). the trouble is, it is not always done very well and sometimes not done at all wonder how much this app will cost ... hope it's 79p!

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