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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Barry Diller elaborates: More thoughts on user-generated content

As part of some magazine stuff I’m working on, I had a quick conversation this A.M. with Barry Diller, CEO of InterActiveCorp, and former CEO of Paramount Pictures and Fox.

One of the things we talked about was his perspective on the value of user-generated content…since some comments he made earlier this month at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco set the blogosphere buzzing. Diller conveyed the impression that he didn’t think we're on the verge of seeing a creative explosion sparked by a population of talented bloggers, musicians, and filmmakers who publish their work on the Net. (See also this OnoTech post on amateurs versus professionals.)

Diller told me today that he may have been misunderstood. There will be lots of user-generated content, he believes, but most of it will be consumed by small audiences. He doesn’t think there are a thousand as-yet-undiscovered J.J. Abramses or Steven Spielbergs or Madonnas, who will make TV or or movies or music that appeals to a large swath of the populace.

Diller told me, “What I meant was that you have to distinguish between so-to-speak user-generated text or video, which will have a designed audience of four or forty, as against those things that will have a really wide dissemination. And I think that there is a true dividing line between the two. It is certainly true that there is a talented person waiting to be discovered that will be more easily discovered, probably by the proliferation and the ease of use and instant publishing of the Internet.”

One exception Diller cited: some video, shot on the site of a news event by an amateur with a camera, may be seen widely. But “in terms of widely disseminated, mass communication engines, I believe that they will be dominated by people of professional talent.”

“That doesn’t mean that new talent isn’t being discovered all the time,” he continued.

“What it does mean is that real, professional talent – being in the professional discipline of it – is a small group always. By its very definition, it is small. Respectfully to all of us humans, there are simply not that many great poets, singers, actors, dancers. There are, thankfully, enough. But we shouldn’t delude ourselves, that suddenly vast numbers of previously undiscovered talent will emerge through this instant publishing process. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”

“I am a total believer that talent outs. There is no talent hidden away in a garage that doesn’t eventually out. And of course because of its self-publishing nature [of the Internet], it has a chance to get there quicker.”

That clarification seems pretty clear. And I think I agree - there probably aren't large numbers of people floating around with the ability to make the next "Seinfeld" or "Silence of the Lambs." But are mass-market media products like those going to matter as much in the future? Will they continue to command the lion's share of our attention? Of that, I'm not so sure...and I wonder if Diller may be hanging on to a conceptual carton of milk whose expiration date is approaching.

What do you think?


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