The “value” of “user generated content”: notes #2 (cut n paste)

January 17, 2013

N.B. Part one is here. Go to the Turner Hopkins blog for more details on the work on the value of user generated content they are doing for OFCOM.

What kind of “value”? “Market value”? “Public value”? Emotional “value”?

The real “value” of Facebook is in the data about its users not in the content the users upload to Facebook. Facebook is a telecom network. They are monetising people’s need to talk to each other not their need to create content.

US v UK. Facebook appears to be a US million dollar business. What’s the value of FB to the UK economy? Are any jobs being created? Are taxes being paid? Is it stimulating investment in the UK sector or UK businesses? Many UK businesses and services are now using it as a platform – does being on Facebook help them create “value”? How? How much?

US v UK. Twitter made a profit of £16,500 in the UK last year. Not much value.

UGC is a middle class hobby, done by people who already have good jobs and leisure time. Do we ask what’s the “value” of book clubs? Fly fishing?

Fifty shades of Grey: originally fan fiction (UGC) done for “love”. Now a professional business with a clear economic value. What was the tipping point? Where, when, why and how did one turn into the other ?

Film and TV are the dominant entertainment mediums of the second half of the 20th Century. Both are highly expensive and require big teams. You can crowd source elements of the creative process (e.g. ideas brainstorming for Snakes on a Plane) but Samuel Jackson still needs to get paid (a lot). Copyright regimes put up barriers which ensure reinvestment in expensive content.

Personal use has been exempted from copyright law because up till now it doesn’t have enough value. But digital publishing potentially turns personal use into worldwide distribution. So personal use has a market value and market impact. Enough value that when I write a blog post that becomes popular a machine sticks an advert on it. Which is the price I pay for using a “free” service.

UGC and public value. If social media is UGC than using it to identify right wing groups as @JamieBarlett has done seems a very “valuable” activity.

UGC and public value: it is possible to imagine a future where trying to make commercial businesses out of UGC has failed because UGC isn’t high enough quality to be worth putting adverts around but there is a value to society in citizens speaking their minds. So the state/not for profit organisations maintains big UGC presences while business use it for customer contact but don’t make any money out of it (nationalise Facebook!)

UGC is a middle class activity but to be fair most culture is produced by people with time on their hands. Surplus, waste.

The myth of the “market” and people paying for content to make profitable businesses. A big proportion of all content in the UK is not profitable (never mind UGC). The BBC, the Guardian, newspapers which are loss making funded by fabulously rich patrons, arts council, digital public space. To only look at economic value of content alone just seems like an intellectual fashion. The economic value is the least important thing about content. Businesses and advertisers don’t produce good content because their eyes are on the potential value not the content.

I can count on the fingers of one hand the adverts I thought were good enough to remember. And even those didn’t make me want to buy the product. Is advertising just bad UGC? After all, “half my advertising budget is wasted…”

Sometimes the Daily Mail online gets very close to UGC. Cut n paste stuff. Nothing wrong with cut n paste, mind you.

The trouble with UGC is: who looks after the kids while you’re creating it? Which is why it’s nice to do UGC with your kids…


2 Responses to “The “value” of “user generated content”: notes #2 (cut n paste)”

  1. Stack Exchange seems to be one of the few sites to be making a decent profit out of good-quality user-generated content. They focus on a strict Q&A model, and ruthlessly delete a lot of content (even good, liked stuff) that falls outside their remit.

    And they give the whole thing away under the CC-BY-SA license, because the real value is in the active community, not the simple content.

    Which is interesting.


  2. nickreynoldsatwork Says:


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