What do we call the people we make content for?

By Deane Barker on June 2, 2016

What is the name for people who consume content?  We have names for people who create the content – usually “creator” or “editor” – but what do we call the people on the other side?  The people who view/read the content we create and edit?

  • "Visitor”:  This is common, but this presumes someone is going to “visit” a website.  What if you send them an email?  What if they read your content on social media?

  • "User”:  Do people “use” content?  They “use” an app or functionality, but can we use that term to define people who view/read content?

  • "Public”: What if they’re not the public?  What if it’s an intranet, or an email list?

  • "Consumer”: I love this, because people “consume” content.  But there’s potential for confusion with the economic term “consumer.”

  • "Audience”:  This is good, but what’s the singular?  Audience is an aggregate term.

What do we call these people?  Can we collectively define a term for this group?

Comments (4)

Lockevn says:


User is too general, used to mention Visitor, Editor, Administrator, ... “Audience”, too strange to virtual Web world and feel reality-connected.

Alf Nilsson says:


In my projects, which normally are websites, intranets and similar, we usually use the term visitor. Even if the solution sends an email, the most common trigger from that email is something on the website. Adding a commerce to the site we could also say customer.

If there is a third component such as email subscriptions or similar we usually call those “recipients” or start looking at our client’s words that can be prospects or customers.

The word “user” usually confuse since it could also refer to people from the client such as the editors “using” the CMS.

jonathan peterson says:


ANYTHING but consumer.

Henrik Nystrom says:

Historically we’ve mostly referred to these as Visitors in the projects I have worked with, but I completely agree with you that this isn’t very accurate if you consider the many different channels that are in use today to deliver content. I’ve also heard the term ‘External user’ being used from time to time, but that has a similar problem to ‘Public’.

I think that whatever term you use must be something that is carried across multiple disciplines to be really useful. I’ve found that both Consumer and Audience are often used when talking user experience and design and I think that a definition should be used by all members of the team for it to be considered successful even thought this might require something that is less precise in certain cases.