A lot of different stories this morning all in some way related to you and me. Yes, we, the users, are under fire. Haven’t noticed it yet? Well, let’s see what is being said about us.
Mathew Ingram pointed me to a Business Week article in which it is said that User Generated Content is dead. The article even has a confronting title “Web video: move over amateurs”. Evidence from this bold statement came from examples where specific USG sites were closing down due to limited amounts of traffic. People now want professional content.
Mathew puts the finger on the spot when he says:
The thing that really bugs me about the BusinessWeek article is that there’s this false dichotomy between high-quality professional content and low-quality UGC crap. It’s not that binary, I would argue. It’s more like a spectrum, with professional content on one end, and as you move down the scale you get lower quality, until there’s your brother-in-law singing karaoke.
Is there a lot of UGC crap that only someone’s mother would watch? Sure there is. But there’s a lot of garbage produced by “professionals” that gets foisted on people through traditional media too, whether they want it or not. I’d take some half-decent UGC over that any day.
I agree with Mathew but would add an emotional aspect to it. When a user creates something and shares it with the world, he is essentially distributing emotions. Emotions of any kind. That is where the power and fascination of user generated content comes from. We often take the poor quality and amateurism for granted because we can almost feel what the user is trying to say. It is precisely for this reason I once argued that the music industry should stop thinking in terms of distribution music and start thinking in terms of distributing emotions. The first leads to suing illegal downloaders and failing business models, the lather leads to embracing the user and creating a business model on the user’s passions.
Then there is Jaron Lanier who writes an emotional post about not getting payed for his professional content. I sympathise with Jason, but from a very different perspective. He takes the perspective of income for the creator, I would argue from the user point of view.
The web 2.0 free (but ad-based) business model leads to people like Jaron not being valued properly, but even more, to users not being taken seriously. Precisely for that reason I have argued for the need of a new revolution, this time a revolution in business models. This will lead to user centric thinking and monetizing user value. John Battelle points out to Jaron that the system itself isn’t corrupt, but that there is merely wrong execution. The best way to provide content for free, John argues, is by search. Exactly! In my opinion search is the only truly successful business model in which ads and free services work seamlessly together to provide value to the user.
So, let us not blame the user. It is the business model that works against us all. Let’s work on business models that provide the user the value he deserves and is willing to pay for!