User-Generated Mediocrity

It's Hard to Monetize Something You Don't Understand

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A very good e-mail from eMarketer arrived this morning.

In it, they explained how Accenture did an interesting Global Content Survey recently and two thirds of the respondents believe that, within three years, their companies will be making money off of user-generated content (UGC). A quarter of them have no idea how that will happen.


Talk about transparency. "We know this is good. We know we can make money off of it. But we're just not sure how." Ready. Fire. Aim.

Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
The e-mail also included a Synovate study commissioned by Clipblast that pulled the skin from the pudding. As it turns out, there are plenty of things that adult Internet users don't like about UGC. The usual suspect -- clutter -- seems to be fairly obvious. Just at there are too many professionally produced commercials, there's simply an overload of UGC. The survey also included the bugaboos of inconsistent, frustrating, chaotic and funky content. My take is that it's kind of like trying to wade through a community bulletin board to find the best guitar teacher or dog-walker.

The sweet spot, in my opinion, comes down to quality and focus. The aforementioned shortcomings are the biggest issues that no one was really talking about before. UGC was that shiny object that was dipped in the lake and plenty of fish came over to take a look. Now we're seeing that the lure is made out of the lead of inconsistency. After that look, the fish move on to find something more substantial.

One of the great things about MySpace is the fact that dedicated fans of new and good music, for example, know that they can find it. It's part of their online routine and is consistently there. But the newbie must face the other side of MySpace -- the sheer size of it all. If you don't know exactly where to go, you'll have to do a lot of searching, and much of that searching will involve wading through a sea of garbage. Some MySpace pages have the feel of a schizophrenic snake-oil salesman -- all over the map, with no clear reason to be there. We talk about ad clutter all the time -- yet content clutter is a massive issue.

It all comes down to the essence of what all of this is about. To steal from Mark Silviera in "Ordinary Advertising . . . and How to Avoid it Like the Plague," it's about the "truth well told." There's plenty of "truth" out there, but it is far from well told. Nike's Joga campaign was the truth well told. Dove is the truth well told. I have even seen content from radio stations: 94.7 Alternative Portland has some interesting stuff (check out their a:casts and bootleg videos) and KINK consistently has content that tells interesting stories. We're attempting to do the same with our La-Z-Boy New Look micro-campaign in Portland.

Fact is, I could care less about your trip to Cuyahoga Falls or your remake of "Stairway to Heaven" -- but if you tell one hell of a story, chances are, you may get me to pay attention. If your UGC is really good, then you may hear from someone in the two-thirds of the Accenture study.

That's when UGC is the true win-win.

Quick Hits

Do you like UGC? If so, what kind of UGC do you gravitate to?

Is it frustrating finding quality UGC? Why?

Can companies make real money with UGC in the future?

Get to Know


94/7 Alternative Portland



The Don Imus "Misogyneopardy" winner is "LibraryChick." Don't know her name, but she is the proud recipient of a $25 Red Lobster gift card. Decorum prevents me from revealing her entry, but you can guess it involves some tart language that I believe Ken Wheaton and the Crain censors would have a tough time with.

This Week's Game: Time Wasters Send/post your favorite online game that you play when you feel the need to take a little time off. The simpler the game, the better. No Halo 7, please. We're thinking more along the lines of a Flash game that is as addictive as the thin Swedish ginger snaps my wife and I buy in Portland.

The winner receives a $25 gift card to . . . or Red Lobster.* Your choice.

Good Luck!!

*Editor's Note: Games and game prizes are not sponsored by Advertising Age. They come directly from Doug Zanger's mind and pocket, respectively. Technically, that should make me eligible to play -- after all, why don't I deserve a shot at $25 worth of crab legs -- but it might seem petty of me. --K.W.
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