Tuesday, September 26, 2006

User generated content

I've been thinking a lot about User Generated Content, as I suppose everyone else has and think there is a great untapped resource out there that could be turned into online ad revenue.

Everybody has read about the integration of newspaper news rooms online, which is interesting and offers one direction about the development of multimedia additions to newspapers and other online products, but just as interesting is opening up what could be a (controlled) flood of essentially free user generated content.

This has in small ways already started to sit alongside traditionally professional journalism written by reporters, writers and columnists. We've seen it as blogs (on Comment for Free for example and elsewhere) and we've seen it as uploaded video, pictures and eye witness reportage (July 7 highlighted this) is sent in and published (CNN has started to formalise this a little earlier this year with its Citizen journalism development), but so far not altogether large scale.

There's much more opportunity and I think part of this links into publishers defending themselves against the encroachment of powerful social networking sites and other online developments (flikr/Youtube/Wikipedia etcetera), whose mix of content and reach can only grow.

If you look at your business I think this can work in most core areas although some more than others. For instance, think about media, sport and music, three areas where there is a huge scope for UGC blogs and news/multimedia reportage.

There are a lot of people out there (readers/users/others attracted to the power of publishing brands) who could be pulled in and brought onboard to create content with major publishing groups in the form of blogs/news/multimedia, which would in turn create the potential for a major community development (boards, systems of rating, other forms of interaction).

I recently went looking at Brand Republic for people to blog on the site. Literally just asking for people with ideas. Not all will go the distance, but easily came up with 30 who had concrete ideas, commitment and willingness (as of course its all for free) to create free content and pages and pages of ad inventory.

You can throw news/reportage into that mix as well, be it of gigs, sporting fixtures or whatever (some subject areas are obviously going to lend themselves to multiple forms of UGC, while others less so).

Some of this content could be integrated alongside existing professional products (as additional sections) strengthening what is already there, while the rest would exist on parallel bespoke UGC sites, which have the attraction for those doing it of sitting under your brand.

This could give you a whole family of UGC covering the your entire business.

I think people will be strongly attracted to creating UGC for major online brands such as Guardian Unlimited because of the power and attraction of the brand, which they probably already have a relationship with (as a reader) and want to take further.

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