What Did You Call Me?

Posted on December 14, 2009 8:00 AM by Joel Comm

The French call people who use the Internet "Internautes." I like that. It makes us sound like explorers seeking out new life and new civilizations in cyberspace. When I open my browser, I half-expect to bump into a French Captain Kirk.

It's certainly a better term than any of the words we have in English. "Users" makes our readers sound like drug addicts. "Surfers" makes them sound like Californian beach bums. And "readers" doesn't work either because people do much more than read online. They also play, watch, listen and, of course, click and buy.

When it comes to describing audiences, the terms might not matter too much. We know what people do online and as website owners, we work hard to produce different kinds of content to make them happy.

But how we describe ourselves does matter.

When I first started on the Web, we were "webmasters." But that was because much of the work was technical and webmasters were people who knew how to make the Web work. Today, the technical side of running a website requires no more skills than the ability to open drop-down menus and hit the "publish" button.

So we're "publishers." But that's not right either. Sure, we bring out content and we make it available to the public. We also bring in advertisers and manage ad campaigns to support our sites.

But sometimes we also sell directly. When you create an information product or turn your expertise into a white paper, an ebook or a report that you offer yourself, you become a seller as well as writer and a publisher. And when you put up ads for affiliate products, your income depends on your ability to persuade people to buy.

That makes you a retailer.

Those different jobs require different skills and different kinds of behavior. As a retailer, you're going to have to choose the products carefully, understand their benefits, build a relationship with your customers and lead them to buy. It also means preparing for peak buying times and looking for items that match the season.

As Christmas approaches, it's worth remembering that you're in the retail business too.

18 Comments For This Post

  1. John Paul Says:

    I'm a twitteringbloggingwebmasterinternetmatketingbusinessowner lol

    Now I wonder if this will fit on ym biz card..lol

  2. Matthew Ray Scott Says:

    Joel, thanks for this reminder. I've called myself all of these labels to describe myself.

    I'm going for Grand Pooba someday. Has that one been taken yet? Not there yet.

  3. Ubi Says:

    "internautes" - love it at the first sound! As usual, great article Joel! :)

  4. George Says:

    Technology has placed so many easy to use tools at our finger tips that we don't need well defined roles anymore. We can be a publisher , advertiser , researcher , developer and CEO of our venture at the same time. The Master would be appropriate for us in all different roles.

  5. Stevie Knight Says:

    As a frenchie myself, I like the term "internautes." Almost as important sounding as "cosmonaute" (or not! LOL!).

    How about "online empire builder"?

    No, really, what you call yourself has a lot to do with how you view what you have to offer potential customers/clients. As you point out, Joel, that can change as the internet and technology and expertise change and develop.

    As any parent or business owner knows, we shift from role to role throughout the day. One of my initial biggest mistakes online was to emphasize the "social media strategist" role at the expense of the importance of the retail sale.

    At the end of the day, our kids don't care how many people like us or listen to us. They need our businesses to be profitable so that we can take care of them and spend time with them. As "entrepreneurs"...the label that comes closest to "online empire builder" for me...the retail sale of info-products and/or hard goods must remain the big target, no matter which secondary roles get us there.

  6. Chris Says:

    Joel, I have been fortunate enough to have experience in all of the areas that you have described. Now it's time to keep them all straight and have the time to perform all the necessary functions as desired.......

  7. Scott Lovingood Says:

    Labels are so 20th century. It does help us to quickly make judgments by using labels but it also utilizes an existing set of limiting beliefs.

    I am an explorer, a teacher, an educator, a student, a father, a friend, a wisdom spouter, a tax junkie, a wealth squad leader, a philosopher, a libertarian, a Christian and a guide on the journey of life.

    Are you sharing your knowledge with others? Why not?

  8. chris Says:

    I See My Audience as Passers By and I just Have to Get them To Notice Me

  9. Michael L. Brown Says:

    Very insightful article, Joel. We really are explorers and discovering new and wonderful innovations as we wend our way into the wilds of the internet. It is indeed a jungle out there! Yeah, "Internautes", love it! Keep those interesting articles coming.

  10. Caroline Dignard Says:

    You are right Joel, in French we call Internet users: Internautes
    and you should also know that the French Internet world is also in is infancy. There are many opportunity for English marketers to tap in this market with the right join venture partner that can do the SEO, SEM and the translation of there products. Check out ClickBank in the French section there are very little choice for affiliate to market in French.

  11. Sebastien Says:

    I am french. And yes, here, Users are called "Internautes". It's very trend now. But we also use "Surfeur" for surfers and "Visiteurs" for visitors. But we don't use Users or Readers.

    French words...


  12. Mourad Says:

    Nice to hear from you again. I think when it comes to E-Management, WebMarketer is what all kind of people call now.

  13. Mary Jane Mahan Says:

    Joel, thanks for reminding us of the importance of powerful language. This is a good post, however I do urge you to rethink calling surfers "beach bums". Surfers are courageous souls who harness the power of the ocean in a surrendered manner. The Pacific Ocean wholloped me the first time I stepped in it--and yet I return. May we all find our inner surfer and RIDE!

  14. Warren Whitlock Says:

    When net tools are so easy to use that they are boring, we really start to get productive.

    At that point, we are all just called "people"

  15. Helen Says:

    Hi Joel,
    Liked the new name. Right now I have to call myself "newbie". I have not explored enough or been in marketing long enough to call myself anything else except maybe "learner". I have appreciated all the free help you have given to me to help me on my journey to another name.

    PS: I did vote for you as the top "guru".


  16. Ryan Brown Says:

    It's absolutely the best career choice for adults living with Attention Deficit. Especially if you have someone along to keep you in line.

    For me, it's my abundantly caring and resourceful wife. Without her to build these crazy spreadsheets I'd be lost.

    Thanks for all you do.


  17. Davor Gasparevic Says:

    So, what are we in the end lol? You totally confused me, heh...

  18. Ronny Henson Says:

    I am fed up with twitter. If I stay off of twitter more than a couple of weeks, it's hell trying to get back on. Most of the time my password won't work, I have sent 'forgot your password' a dozen times and not ever one reply. I want to use twitter for my business, but you can't seem to contact anyone when you have problems, its nothing but a pain in the rear. I have about 900 people following me, and I can't even have contact with them. I'm about to dump the whole damn thing.


Leave a Reply

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

Advertise Here

Subscribe to JoelComm.com, Free!

Subscribe to JoelComm.com via RSS

Subscribe to Joel's YouTube Channel


Or, subscribe via email:


Joel's Twitpic Photo Stream

See all photos

Advertise Here


Joel Comm is an Internet entrepreneur who has been online for over 20 years. In 1995, Joel launched WorldVillage.com, a family-friendly portal to the web which enjoys thousands of visitors each day. Joel is the co-creator of ClassicGames.com, which was acquired by Yahoo! in 1997, and now goes by the name Yahoo! Games. Since then, Joel's company, InfoMedia, Inc., has launched dozens of web sites which offer online shopping, free stuff, website reviews and more. Joel is the author of many popular books, including the NY Times Best-Seller, The AdSense Code. He regularly makes appearances at Internet marketing conferences and seminars.
FTC Disclaimer: Posts written before December 1st, 2009 may include endorsements of products or services that include a material connection to the author. Readers should assume a material connection for any product or service endorsed prior to December 1, 2009.