Davos07: User-generated content, aka our stuff

A session called “The user takes charage of content” begins with moderator Steve Adler, editor of Business Week, acknowledging the controversy over the session’s title. He shares my suggested alternative: “stuff from us.” Liveblogging….

Tom Glocer of Reuters said he doesn’t buy the professional/amateur line. (We’ll be left with no labels and no borders. And maybe that’s the point.) He says Reuters invented user-generated content 50 years ago aggregating trader information and then selling it back. Adler asks him whether professional journalists will lose their jobs as a result of this. “I think there’s only one type of journalism, which is good journalism…. I know some professional journalists who write crappy text and I know amateurs who write beautiful prose.” Asked whether there willl be fewer professional journalists, once again, Glocer says there will be fewer newspapers and that there will be other opportunities for people who want to do journalism to get paid for it.

Michael Wolf, ex-McKinsey and soon ex-MTV Networks, says that mashups work: “Clips make hits.” Online makes entertainment into something you can share. He says a deal with Google to put MTV video onto smaller sites creates a great deal more interest’ this “will only enhance your core business rather than hurting it.”

Rey Ramsey of One Economy, which tries to bring more people online, says he’s not hearing enough here about how to spread digital to more people.

Adler has been thinking a lot about the value of brands in various sessions and he asks Shelly Lazarus of Ogilvy & Mather about what happens to brands. She cautions about having a core to the brand but she also says that if your customers are making commercials for your products, “you got ’em.” She says there is a “confidence gap” in online, ugc in the ad industry because advertisers do not spend proprotionally to the audience. I would call this a “vision gap.” Or a “balls gap.”

Adler asks Yoo Huhn0Oh, CEO of Cyworld in Korea, about its unique business model: not subscription fees or mostly advertising but selling virtual products in its MySpace/Second-Life-hybrid service. It is spreading to a handful of more large countries.

Asked whether a network sould have started YouTube, Chad Hurley says he didn’t look at it that way: They saw a problem with video online and the difficulty in dealing with it. “We saw the power of simplifying a problem because we came from PayPal… In the video space, we saw a similar opportunity.”

Called upon and asked whether big media companies will be able to make this work, I say that we are in the third phase of what we have called interactivity:
1. Big media lets you talk here.
2. Big media asks you to give us stuff to enrich its sites.
3. Screw you, we people say, we own our stuff; send traffic and even money to us.
I give my standing illustration that Yahoo is the last old media company — because it’s centralized — while Google is distributed everywhere, enriching anyone. I say media companies must turn from owning content to enabling networks. So I turn the question around ask the guys on the platform whether big media companies can open up and enable networks.
Wolf says yes but in truth, he goes only halfway, enbracing getting his content out there distributed and remixed. And good for that. Call that 3a.
3b is having a relationship with the stuff we create and make and enriching us with attention, praise, promotion, money.

Asked by Jim Spanefeller of Forbes what he thinks of GoogleNews, Tom Glocer of Reuters says, “We like GoogleNews.” It gives them “ad revenue and page views we’d otherwise not have gotten.” Take that, Agence France Presse.

Someone in the room formerly known as the audience notes that one of the top-viewed clips on YouTube today is a film shown here in Davos yesterday with Israelis and Palestinians calling for peace now. Someone else complains that it takes too long to find the good stuff on YouTube. Hurley replies: “Now that we’re part of Google, finding videos will be a lot easier, that’s for sure.”

Jeff Clarke from Travelport says his attitude to people taking his stuff and putting it on their sites is, “the more the merrier.” He’s asked from the floor about a competitor taking all his stuff and making a business out of it. Clarke replies that he has made deals with just those scrapers. Information is commodified, he says, and so you have to find your differentiation elsewhere.

I’ll put up Chad Hurley video shortly with him saying that they will move to paying producers.

  • Professionals are paid to do what they do, amateurs do it without pay, for love.

    It’s one of the few distinctions that is real and matters.

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  • john caddidy

    oh, what utter tripe, dave. get over yourself. do you really believe that professional journos get into that business for the pay? hey, if they wanted to make serious dough, they’d become geek software writers and sell out to the highest bidder. before getting on your high horse about the dispicable “media,” you should thank your lucky stars for the generations of brave & courageous journalists who have put their lifes & careers on the line in pursuit of the truth.

    now THAT’s a noble pursuit.

  • So glad to hear that Rey Ramsey was there. Back in the day, he was one of the first Internet activists to rally in support of disenfranchised communities creating online content to improve quality of life in their communities. He’s definitely one of the good guys.

  • JamesBruni

    All roads lead to Rome, or in this case, “good journalism”. Whether it’s Reuters “You Witness” citizen journalism or Reuters staff generated journalism, it’s still Reuters news. Look at NowPublic.com, and other leading participatory journalism sites, and you will find “good prose” written by citizen journalists. You will even find scoops. In fact, just this week, NowPublic.com outscooped Reuters by six days on a story about the new US Defense Dept’s “death ray gun”. An amazing story, and waste of taxpayer dollars, first reported in the Blogosphere, and picked up by mainstream media.

  • Arnie Delancy

    “Citizen journalism” is such a crock. A small echo chamber –the same thinking herd — would delude us all into believing that the citizenry is trained to sniff out scoops. Don’t bore me by pointing to small, periodic exposures (such as the Rather affair.) They won’t ever break a Watergate story. It’s just not in their DNA. Pontificating in their pajamas just ain’t gonna do it, guys.

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  • I heard in a podcast someone at Intel use the term “personal video” (if I recall correctly) in place of “user generated video”. This goes back to the term “personal computer” where the computer became available for personal use not just in government and corporations.

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  • “stuff from us.” is as good a description of user generated content as any other out there and I applaud it. You can almost smell the earth from the term and hey, thats where we come from.