Monday, October 01, 2007

It's All About the Content, Baby

A big buzz-term in the Web 2.0 community is "user-created content." By this, people are typically referring to things that online communities create themselves that demonstrate their passion towards something. This blog post is an example of "user-created content."

The New Marketing people were quick to seize on this, and "user-created content" quickly became something quite desirable within New Marketing circles. In this slightly more cynical case, the content they're referring to is something that users have created to show their loyalty to or excitement about a brand or product. A good example would be the "PG version" of the 300 trailer that came out right before the movie. The YouTube video (embedded below) has more than 4.5 million views, and while the users did basically overdub the source material a few times, it was enormously popular, and New Line played along because it's basically free advertising (a trick many companies haven't quite figured out yet.)

I was thinking today about the push towards user-created content, and I think it's a great goal, it's something that's exceptionally hard to create organically unless you specifically give the community tools to do so. But even if you were to allow users to create their own car commercial and share it (as GM did a couple of years ago), will all that have the same effect as one humorous video that's an overdub of the official trailer? It's hard to tell. There's a reason there aren't more Lewis Blacks, Dave Attells and Jon Stewarts out there: doing something funny and relevant, with a wide audience appeal, isn't easy. Empowering community members to do so is great, but one shouldn't expect each video created to be another "300 PG."

Rather, I think New Marketing should focus more on user-chosen content. Empower me to take the things I want and put them in my own space. This blog is a fine example: the content you see on the right nav is either static (the blogroll) or chosen (Google Reader, my Gamertag and its accompanying RSS feed) content. Facebook is an even better example; the entire site is at its heart a colossal crisscross of RSS feeds all picking from and talking to each other. Aside from blog posts and "wall writing" (Facebook's comments), most of the rest of the content there is generated by RSS, and the user chooses what, if anything, is displayed on their page.

The iGoogle landing page is much the same way. It's now so infinitely customizable that there are website contests devoted entirely to who has the best iGoogle landing page. That's powerful stuff, and I suspect we're only beginning to tap the potential of user-chosen content.

That's my thought for a Sunday after a busy weekend.

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