Weekend Reading: On User Generated Content And Future Trends

Did you laugh on seeing this video? I’m not sure of when this was rolled out, but I recently noticed a potent feature that allows users to post video responses to videos at YouTube. As of last Sunday, there were 783,938 views and 27 video responses to the above video (some video responses in the sidebar here). Once this feature becomes popular, I suppose YouTube will start listing posts with max responses as well. I’ve written, in the past, about the Coke & Mentos viral, which I came across on Arun Katiyar’s blog. At MIPCOM this year, it was said that the viral got an estimated $10 mil worth of free advertising for Mentos. Also see this post at paidContent on advertising and YouTube.

Different people define Web 2.0 differently: I think of it as the participatory business model, and the aforementioned feature takes participation to a whole new level; it will be interesting to see how it develops. The Coke & Mentos viral and its success is a sure sign of things to come because it forces its way through the clutter like nothing else. How many advertising agencies could have thought this up?

User Generated Content (UGC) is going to give large movie studios sleepless nights (if it isn’t already), much like what Wikipedia, Dictionary.com and wordweb must have done to publishers. I think UGC is going to beat ‘created for new media’ initiatives by studios. Two ‘created for new media’ initiatives in India that I am aware of are by Kaleidoscope Entertainment and, more recently, by Rajshri Media. I’ve seen a preview of Seedhe Siddhu Se by Kaleidoscope, and I found it boring and amateurish. Rajshri’s mobile content plans are still in the works, and it remains to be seen what they can do.

On the other hand, Hungama Mobile and Dev Benegal’s 24×7 Making Movies held a contest last month: they gave 35 selected contestants a video camera, and 24 hours to shoot a movie. That content is intended to be sold online and made available for download on the mobile. Benegal acts as the filter for UGC, and Hungama the distributor. Interesting way of monetizing UGC…the perceived editorial integrity will be critical for monetizing UGC.

While I agree with the assessment that all media will exist simultaneously, I do believe that digital content will take over the world simply because of apparently lower distribution costs and instant gratification. When advertising is going to be spread across all available channels, it will be spread thin and therefore the weaker players will struggle and either be bought over if they are any consequence, or shut down.

UGC isn’t constrained by budgets and issues of scripts, and there’s a greater creative pool in case of UGC; isn’t Reality TV bigger than anything else on TV right now? And what about Bus Uncle (the angry old man?):

(Note: abusive language)

“The famous quotes of Bus Uncle are now frequently used, mimicked, and parodied in Hong Kong, particularly by teenagers. The catchphrases also appear on Internet forums, posters, and radio programmes. Various “remixes” and parodies have been created, including versions tuned to Cantonese pop songs, “reenactments” of the incident with video game characters, composite pictures, and movie posters.” – [Wikipedia]

Aggregators of quality UGC will probably do better than hosts of such content themselves; Michael Eisner said the same thing at the HT Leadership Summit, and a report has been published on why context is perhaps as important as content. You might actually find studios scouting for quality UGC and buying rights to show on TV, because TV is one medium that has sold out (mostly), and people accept that, and still watch it. There’s also a case for passive entertainment – the Internet is active entertainment, and I think people will still want to switch on the TV and just lie back and watch whatever is on. Who’s game for creating a marketplace for User Generated content?

For mobile content in India, the floodgates opened with the infamous pornographic MMS that was passed around from phone to phone via Bluetooth – I’m sure it created a huge market for mobile phones with cameras, and more and more people began exchanging photos and videos as a result of it. The mobile is more potent because one can post immediately, but there are issues of access availability and cost. A convergent device and a device independent network with mobile access will solve that problem eventually. The real problem, and I’m sure there are lots of people trying to figure this out – is how can UGC be monetized, because:

– The system is (mostly) unmoderated and completely unpredictable
– Any marketing gimmick that tries to hoodwink the masses will eventually be spotted by a merciless audience
– Push wont be as effective, but can survive if it is obvious as a push initiative.
– A pull, if not a viral but a search-dependent pull, will be painstakingly slow (but often worth it)
– Defining context that sells for contextual advertising for video content is going to be difficult

Editors scanning for quality UGC will bring some credibility and reliability to the system. Credibility of the medium is a big issue, though – the reality being reflected in this content is what catches peoples attention. If someone makes an ass of himself because it’s in a script – people might not buy it anymore. But if an ass (not what you’re thinking) is on screen, it’s a lot more amusing. But if someone tries to fool the people, it won’t last long and the condemnation will be swift and vicious. That will keep people honest, I think, but the A-listers will have to be careful about their slants. A useful link: WOMMA Ethical Blogger Contact Guidelines, via Verbum.

What do you think will be issues with UGC going forward, and how can it be monetized?

Note: This is a slightly edited version of this post.