User Generated Conte[x]t

Last Spring the Havas Media Lab published a paper on user generated content. Actually, the firm rejected that term and determined that “consumers aren’t creating content:
they’re creating context for goods.”

First, what connected consumers create isn’t junk elongating an
already Long Tail of content. Rather, from an economic point of view,
user generated context is an entirely different good from content: a
complement. Demand for one amplifies demand for the other. The tail
of content is lengthening – but that supply curve is made up of new
content players like PaidContent and RocketBoom. By conflating the
content and context, we mistakenly assume that what connected
consumers create is inherently worthless –when, in fact, it’s by letting connected consumers contextualize content that tsunamis of new value
can be unlocked (just ask Google).

Second, context isn’t created by users, but collectively, by
markets, networks, and communities.


Third, context isn’t truly “generated” – a term which implies
something algorithmic, substitutable, mass-produced. Rather, it’s often
deeply culturally specific and socially bound…

Havas goes on to outline how it believes this idea of context affects different industry players:

For content players and publishers, user generated context means
that connected consumers aren’t their competitors – but are vital, essential complementors, who create very real value for them. The
more context there is, the greater demand for their content is likely
to be. That means that it’s vital for content players to explode the
amount of context connected consumers create about them.

This discussion brings to mind some of established media’s old complaint about bloggers – they’re a parasitic medium. Havas’ notion of user generated context shows how the relationship is really symbiotic, not parasitic. Intellectually, at least, I think established media has now largely rejected this idea of “parasitic bloggers.” The difficulty is overcoming emotional reactions and figuring out how to use blogs and other commentary to increase the value of original news stories.

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