This last year has been all about user-generated content. In its organic form, ugc’s popularity makes a lot of sense and there’s been so much buzz about it. It’s no wonder, especially when ‘the’ Google put the $1.65 billion pricetag on it (with some buzz about AOL wanting it as well: http://www.itworld.com/Tech/2428/061109aolyoutube/). It makes movie makers and editors of the jog bloggs in a basement or dorm room – and some have even risen to fame from their little creations. Who can deny the fun in checking out sites like YouTube and viewing/sharing/uploading clips one wants to share with friends. It can be quite a laugh and makes for the all-too-convenient excuse for procrastination. But regardless of how genius an idea is, it’s hard not to raise a brow when that kind of money is being thrown around.
Part of me wants to ask, “why all the hype now?” Five years ago, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation launched a show called Zed (http://zed.cbc.ca/), which was probably ahead of its time. The show aired every weeknight and was a mix of produced content, along with short films and videos created by viewers (then posted online) who tapped into the show’s site. From the beginning, there was a rating system and the more popular original clips were shown on air. It was brilliant from the beginning, but it was also a hardsell for the mainstream media to get excited about. And there was a lot to get excited about, except that it was probably launched by a public broadcaster.
Now, here we are five years later (which in web-speak feels like decades). And the Google/YouTube deal is almost a validation of UGC. Or is it? Personally, when I heard the news (and this is just a gut feeling), I started feeling that strange air from 1999 when grandiose parties were thrown for no reason by internet start-ups, pool tables were being installed in some company lounge areas, and more people started wearing casual wear.
So, when I read a posting written by Cory Treffiletti in MediaPost (http://blogs.mediapost.com/spin/?p=906), I couldn’t help feeling my head bobbing up and down in agreement.
He says: “The announcement of Google acquiring YouTube has signaled the trend for the media and the industry pundits to discuss whether or not we’re entering into a period of inflating another Internet bubble much like the one we saw go “pop” in 2000. When that bubble burst, we saw money run away from technology–and more paper millionaires became mere mortals than anyone could possibly have imagined.”
Now, legal issues aside, no doubt the kinks for the deal will be ironed out (the Google/YouTube one, that is). The question is, where do we go with UGC?
Another thing Cory Treffiletti is right about is the fact that consumers are looking for and interested in original programming – something that they can’t find on television. Be it a funny video someone wants to share or a long lost programme, even chopped up and re-edited.
Trouble is, the more corporate a site gets, the less fun it may become for those die-hards who are posting content. They’ll be afraid of taking clips and chopping them, using commercial music also because of potential legal/licensing issues) It will just mean a migration of some from one site to the next new big thing.
Where UGC’s future may lie (and is already making killer money for some operators) is in the mobile world. It’s no surprise. Your friend goes away, sees something funny or different – they take a picture or short video and then ‘click’ and send. It almost seems like a no-brainer. And with moblogging becoming a bigger thing, the marriage between UGC and mobile phones is a no-brainer.
So, is all the UGC hype valid or something to be more cautious about? There’s definitely something to get excited about, but also something to think about and watch this space.