Monday, October 29, 2007

User-generated content pales against that of professionals

The "world's first Internet television network, ManiaTV, closed its doors to user generated content (UGC). Could it be because UGC just can't compete with professional content? What can newspapers learn?

It's not just because of the extreme popularity of YouTube that ManiaTV stopped accepting submissions by anyone. It's more because the site realized that there was little demand for UGC on what is supposed to be a site revolving around professionally produced entertainment.

Google is even experimenting with ads on YouTube, but mainly on professionally produced videos. Apart from this, the algorithms being written for copyright protection and the lawsuits being threatened show just how much professional content was being posted to YouTube. Some surveys showed that users were searching more for professional material such as The Daily Show than the random dog on a skateboard (some help on the source please, I can't find it!)

All this just goes to confirm that professionally produced material is still where most people pay attention. The UGC you find on the likes of YouTube may be entertaining and competing for eyeballs. But when it comes to news video, large media organizations with the proper resources will still be referred to first.

Newspapers are at a particular advantage in that their essence is well-investigated stories that take much investment to produce. For instance, one of the first purely UGC sites for reporting, Backfence, closed over the summer. Pro-am journalism is also off to a shaky start.

UGC will still be used when it adds value, such as footage from someone's digital camera when they are in the right place at the right time to catch a breaking event. But this added value is for editors at major media organizations to decide.

In my tours around the global newspaper industry, virtually every newsroom has told me that they are not threatened by UGC, that their professional journalism still embodies the values that it should. They do, however, welcome it for the added value mentioned above.

But most amateur UGC will more than likely remain isolated to websites that are specifically made for it, such as YouTube, as long as they are financially sustainable. It will be curious to see if YouTube remains a viable enterprise as more professional media organizations pull their content, publishing it on their own copyrighted sites with their own advertising.

Source: Business Week

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