Commodifying free labor online

Social media, audiences, and advertising

Authored by: Nicole S. Cohen

The Routledge Companion to Advertising and Promotional Culture

Print publication date:  March  2013
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415888011
eBook ISBN: 9780203071434
Adobe ISBN: 9781135095574


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A news segment reveals the latest in mobile phone technology. In the clip, a woman on the phone asks a friend, “Where do you want to go for lunch?” “There are some great restaurants in my neighborhood,” he replies. Suddenly, a third voice enters the call. “Hungry?” asks the rapid-fire baritone. “Sonny's barbeque. The-best-place-to-grab-comfort-food-hundreds-of-locations-nationwide.” The friends' decision has been made, explains a reporter, thanks to a new service from Google that provides mobile phones for free, subsidized by advertisements whispered directly in speakers' ears. Using similar technology to its email service, Google's phone software detects keywords in conversations and, the reporter notes, “verbally suggest[s] related products and services on the spot.” Soon, he continues, “users won't remember a time when they didn't have a voice whispering in their ear.”

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