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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

User-gen content ain't dead ... but it'll have to fight for viewers

Andrew Wallenstein of The Hollywood Reporter has a mock obituary for user-generated content. He writes:

    There was a time not that long ago when UGC seemed poised to topple Hollywood, as if anyone with a video camera and a Web connection was deemed a budding Steven Spielberg. But ask yourself this: When was the last time an amateur viral video actually reached viral status?

This is in the vein of my article last December in the Mercury News, suggesting that while big media companies were slow in grasping the Net's video-distribution potential, they were going to figure it out soon enough. In that piece, there's a quote from ABC exec Albert Cheng:

    "Pirated content and user-generated content was all that was available on the Web [for a long time]," says Albert Cheng, executive vice president of digital media for the Disney-ABC Television Group. "Once you see media companies such as ours putting more content online, I think there will be a shift in what people choose, back toward professionally-produced content."

    Some argue that viewers on the Internet simply prefer the wacky, unpredictable, and more informal quality of amateur-made videos, comparing the genre to reality TV shows that have become increasingly popular in the past five years.

    But every new medium goes through an early period of playful, sometimes aimless, experimentation.

I don't think amateur video content is going away... in fact, more of it will be produced every year. I don't think we'll stop seeing viral videos that come from amateurs or semi-pros and reach millions of people. I just think our diet of online video is getting more balanced -- a mix of stuff from big media, smaller producers, and individuals.


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  • As the bigger producers move online, it will be more difficult for smaller producers to compete - Very few of us have the resources or talent of Will Ferrell. Hopefully, with the rise of high(er) quality amatuer or semi-pro video, the average viewers media diet will expand to include independant content.

    Wallenstien's point is salient - and if viral marketing isn't working, how can the smaller producer compete with million dollar marketing? The quality and distribution issues are being solved, but viewer awareness will continue to be a challenge.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 12:15 PM  

  • It will be more varied, thank gawd. I can't watch anymore things blowing up in microwaves or homophobic rants by teenagers. But I'll say it again, the distinction between pro and non-pro will only be made in the quality of the content, not where it's coming from. So Hollywood will become decentralized over time as talented UGC-makers become "pro." What's a semi-pro anyhow? If you're paid for your work you're pro. When Warner Bros. loses millions on Alexander (i.e., Warner arguably wasn't "paid" for its movie), we don't say it's amateur. And in turn, if I make $5000 profit for a movie distributed online, I'd call myself a pro. I've called myself a pro ever since the first time I got paid for it. (And we all know what "it" is.)

    The only value the term "pro" has is a retrograde reference to the entrenched Hollywood manufacturers of media. And they will definitely be making more stuff for us to watch so I don't have to see another thing blowing up in a microwave on YouTube. But I don't want to see a lot more Alexander either. And so I welcome the diversity from the emerging "pros" from everywhere.

    Quality is going to be rare. And while money can make up for quality sometimes, the only thing "pro" about the content I want to watch is whether it exhibits a consistent creativity and craft.

    By Blogger Helena Handbasket, at 12:43 PM  

  • p.s. These guys are "pro" enough for me. I love their stuff. Not sure that NBC would do any better in this short format.

    By Blogger Helena Handbasket, at 12:48 PM  

  • It is interesting to me that Cheng, an executive with ABC downplays user-generated content, when one of the cornerstones of his company's Sunday night schedule for many years has been AMERICA'S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS.

    Then of course, we have the MTV crowd with JACKASS, VIVA LA BAM, etc...

    By Blogger Cunningham, at 4:49 PM  

  • I think it makes more sense that "pro" level work would eventually invade the amateur area.

    After all we've had user created content ever since we got America's Funniest Home Videos. We didn't the internet to begin this. Yes, the internet does allow to you to post your own video, with or without talent, but I would rather watch videos done by people who know what they are doing.

    By Blogger MCT Images, at 5:00 PM  

  • I think user generated content will evolve over time and will be meshed in with professionally created content on video sharing sites. I think we will get to a point where we click from one video to the next on YouTube and they will go back and forth bw UG and professionally done. I'm not sure how the large media companies will get around this. They are all very scared of being served up next to the obscene videos that sometimes get uploaded.

    Anyone can catch and tape entertaining content depending on if they have a camera present and it's turned on. A lot of the videos that I have viewed on YouTube were caught in the heat of the moment and lacked any editing and slick production but they were still just as entertaining.

    By Blogger Cutcaster, at 9:49 AM  

  • and helena... i love your name. hahahah...i thought my parents were really creative but that takes the cake. haha

    By Blogger Cutcaster, at 9:50 AM  

  • I think look at this the other way around. Web video does not equal only UGC. But UGC does have an opportunity to find a home now on-line.

    10 years ago it had nowhere.

    By Blogger Tim Clague, at 12:00 PM  

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