User-Generated Content Sucks
This just in. A lot of user-generated content sucks. As it turns out, not everyone makes a living as a writer, journalist, videographer, or director precisely because most people aren’t very good at it. And those people who are good tend to do it professionally. Ergo, the promise of leveraging the content of the masses to propel your online business is a myth. Or, perhaps it’s not so much that people produce crappy content, it’s that they don’t create content at all. They create profiles perhaps, but not content.
So, let’s forget this whole “user-generated content” fad, stash it with the mood rocks where it belongs, and start spending time on something that’s actually valuable. Like making zombies out of our Facebook friends.
First, this isn’t really a startling revelation. We all know that most content on the internet is blinking text and cat pictures (and not the awesome lol kind). The web itself started as user-generated content and there’s a reason we’re all glad that Google ranks results and doesn’t just assume all sites are equally good and show them in a random order.
Second, most YouTube content may suck, but that’s not really the point. YouTube’s business model wasn’t to get people to upload videos of stellar quality that YouTube could then charge people to view because of the awesomeness. YouTube’s business model was to get a lot of people to upload videos of any quality so it could get lots of users and page views as a means of getting acquired by Google.
Chuqui notes that a small percentage of a community create the content for it, and while that’s absolutely true, that’s missing the point a bit as well. Which is that the larger percentage who never create still show up. And in these days of ad-based monetization, you need people to show up. Profiles may not technically be content, but again, they keep people showing up and interacting with each other (and with the site’s brand). Do you create content when you throw a sheep or write on someone’s wall? Maybe not, but each sheep hurled at someone’s virtual head builds the community just a little more, and to a large extent, that is the point.
Community is perhaps the greatest value in user-generated content, but there’s other worth to be had. We (as a collective whole) may be bad at writing, singing, and videotaping ourselves dancing, but we know what we like. I can’t imagine planning a vacation anymore without checking out reviews online. I may not trust the judgement of one person, but if 400 people hated a hotel, I figure I can trust a least of few of them. If your site draws a community and aggregates this information for me, you’ve got another visitor, even if only 1% of your users contribute and they’re mostly pretty bad at it.