25 July 2008

Is User Generated Content heading for bust?


There is a quote my father used to cite, though I am not sure who this is from. Possibly Samuel Johnson: "No ass ever wrote anything but for money."

Now, we are living in the age of User Generated Content.
This blog is one example, but then I am told I can make money by using the Google AdSense program (me!).
Yahoo has Answers.
Everywhere, we have social networks being described as the hottest Internet thingie.
Message boards, discussion forums, self-created cartoons, photographs uploaded from the family album.... the list is long.
To this long list may be added this "citizen journalism" thing.
As a professional journalist, I often ask myself: Am I heading for unemployment, sub-employment, oblivion, whatever...?
I don't have the answers, but I can tell this much: It suits the creators of technology platforms, and those who make money on advertisements, to get content for free.
User Generated Content assumes that writing, singing, photographs...they are all done only for fun and self-satisfaction.
Some marginal money is shared through programmes like AdSense to encourage good content, but in the end, I do have my reservations about UGC.
If it is good, it must be worth the right price!
How much does one pay for something that is good?
In the current phase, there is a trend of disruption in which demand and supply are not being properly measured. The industry is, as it were, groping itself to find its own shape!
There are geeks trying to figure out how to get on top of Google Search lists.
There are geeks trying to measure how users consume content.
There are geeks trying to measure hits, impressions and usage patterns of content.
It is the lack of accepted measurement metrics, and the sheer novelty of uploading something on the Net that is creating a culture of "UGC-generated" revenues.
I expect this to settle into a rhythm.
Having seen the first dotcom boom -- and bust -- I expect the din on the side of the UGC evangelists from the technology and publisher side to die down.
Clarity will emerge a while later.
Remember the days when kids had 7 mail IDs?
Remember the days when a new email account resulted in 23 forwards read per day and 4 forwards done per day?
All that changed, and I expect this UGC thing to settle into a simple rhythm. A part of the advertisement revenue will most certainly go there, but a lot of the action will be in the mainstream media business.
Techies and ad-sellers trying to behave like publishers is a passing phase.
Loser Generated Content has its limits.
Just wait and watch.


Anonymous said...

Dream on like this and you may just miss the boat!

Madhavan said...

Thank you! I am already in the boat. Just making sure that it does not have holes...and the right boatman has the right oars...and everyone journeys well, and no-one gets taken for a ride;-)

Meera said...

Good one, as always!

Sairee said...

Agree very much. Infact the clutter and untidiness of user generated content is getting to be almost repulsive.

At the end of the day a reader wants a well written piece by someone who knows his subject and not a internet yuppies with attention disorder.

The battle is really about good content and their distribution systems.


Tarun Dua said...

Ah! an advocate for Business as usual which shall survive next big wave of 'UGC'. The postcard survived e-mail and SMS did it not ?
Reminds me of the now famous 'Attack of the Blogs'

Madhavan said...

thank you, Tarun, for dropping by. My own take is that postcards are still in business until such time as SMSes get there. Post-cards have also been reincarnated as beautiful greeting cards (I saw a pile displayed at the Oxford Book Store the other day!). Yes, post-cards were an ad-medium as well:-).

The typewriter did not survive, but writers switched to computer keyboards...the writer-bloggers are different from the typist bloggers. Get it now?


Hmmm ..as Sairee mentioned Clutten and Noise in UGC is too much . but agian thats nothing new.
if you look at the ratio between books written or published and good books [by whatever standard crtics,sales,pages ] and compare it with over all UGC with good UGC . i think it will be comparable . what is missing is a way to ensure discovery of good content .

UGC is not an option , its a necessity [why ?? thats a complete blog post in it self ] and as far as motivation of these Content creator is concerned ..its not money .its love of the pursuit it self . these talks from Clay shirky and Lerry Lessig will put things in to perspective
Clay Shirky : http://tinyurl.com/2em6zs

Lerry Lessig

do see them ...

Madhavan said...

Thank you, Prashant. I have nothing against UGC--I am only trying to define its limits. Also, you are right on the ball about the need to identify the better UGC. Hope to write a post on it.