On User Generated Content


Laughter, like yawning, is infectious. I’m not sure of when this was rolled out, but I recently noticed a potent YouTube feature that allows users to post video responses to videos at YouTube. At present, there are 783,938 views and 27 video responses to the above video (some reponses in the sidebar here). Once this becomes popular, I suppose YouTube will start listing posts with max responses as well. I’ve written, in the past, about the Coke & Mentos viral, which I came across on Arun Katiyar’s blog. At MIPCOM this year, it was said that the viral got an estimated $10 mil worth of free advertising for Mentos. Also see this.

Different people define Web 2.0 in their own way, but I tend to think of it as the participatory business model. The aforementioned feature takes participation to a whole new level and it will be interesting to see how it develops. The Coke & Mentos viral and its success is a sure sign of things to come because it forces its way through the clutter like nothing else. How many advertising agencies could have thought this up?

I think User Generated Content (UGC) is going to give large movie studios sleepless nights (if it isn’t already), much like what Wikipedia, Dictionary.com and wordweb must have done to publishers. UGC is going to beat the crap out of ‘created for new media’ initiatives by studios; two in India that I am aware of are by Kaleidoscope Entertainment and, more recently, by Rajshri Media. I’ve seen a preview of Seedhe Siddhu Se by Kaleidoscope, and I found it boring and amateurish. Rajshri’s mobile content plans are still in the works, though. While I agree with the assessment that all media will exist simultaneously, I do believe that digital content will take over the world simply because of lower distribution costs and instant gratification. When advertising is going to be spread across all available channels, it will be spread thin and therefore the weaker players will struggle and probably be bought over.
Update: Hungama Mobile and Dev Benegal’s 24×7 Making Movies held a contest last month. They gave 35 selected contestants a video camera, and 24 hours to shoot a movie. That content is intended to be sold online and made available for download on the mobile. Benegal acts as the filter for UGC, and Hungama the distributor. Interesting way of monetizing UGC…

UGC isn’t constrained by budgets and issues of scripts, and there’s a greater creative pool in case of UGC; isn’t Reality TV bigger than anything else on TV right now? And what about Bus Uncle (the angry old man?):

(Note: abusive language)

“The famous quotes of Bus Uncle are now frequently used, mimicked, and parodied in Hong Kong, particularly by teenagers. The catchphrases also appear on Internet forums, posters, and radio programmes. Various “remixes” and parodies have been created, including versions tuned to Cantonese pop songs, “reenactments” of the incident with video game characters, composite pictures, and movie posters.” – [Wikipedia]

Aggregators of quality UGC will probably do better than hosts of such content themselves. You might actually find studios scouting for quality UGC and buying rights to show on TV. Cause that’s one medium that has sold out (mostly) and people accept that and still watch it. Who’s game for creating a marketplace for such content?

Credibility of the medium is a big issue, though – the reality being reflected in this content is what catches peoples attention. If someone makes an ass of himself because it’s in a script, people might not buy it anymore. But if an ass (not what you’re thinking) is on screen, it’s a lot more amusing. But if tries to fool all the people, it won’t last long and the condemnation is swift and vicious. That will keep people honest, I think, but the A-listers will have to be careful about their slants. Some useful links:

WOMMA Ethical Blogger Contact Guidelines, via Verbum. More importantly, read about the Edelman-Walmart controversy (I’ve not been able to track it)

For mobile content in India, the floodgates opened with the infamous MMS that was passed around from phone to phone via Bluetooth – I’m sure it created a huge market for mobile phones with cameras, and people began exchanging photos and videos. The mobile is more potent because one can post immediately, but there are issues of access availability and cost. A convergent device and a device independent network with mobile access will solve that problem eventually. The real problem, and I’m sure there are lots of people trying to figure this out – is how long can this last? Why? Because:

– The system is (mostly) unmoderated and completely unpredictable
– Any marketing gimmick that tries to hoodwink the masses will eventually be spotted by a merciless audience
– Push wont be as effective, but can survive if it is obvious as a push initiative.
– A pull, if not a viral but a search-dependent pull, will be painstakingly slow (but often worth it)
– Defining context that sells for contextual advertising for video content is going to be difficult

Anyhoo, more on UGC when I think of something else.

Update: Context and editorial sensibility are going to be key: some of what I said in this post and the one you’re reading has been ratified: Michael Eisner said something similar at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, and here’s Sramana Mitra on context becoming important. 🙂

And here’s Rafat on context and aggregation being King (and not content).

Also, a slightly different version crossposted at ContentSutra. Seems it’s been well received. 🙂

A disclaimer: I’ve linked to posts at paidContent and ContentSutra, which are owned by Content Next Media; I write for Content Next Media.

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  1. Dear Amit,

    I think even blogging as a WEB 2.0 application has changed the way evens of national and international importance are covered. I am sure the Mafia of the Media has been broken by blogs. Also it has democratised information sharing among participants

  2. Nikhil,

    Great post. I totally agree with you that because of the viral nature of UGC, it has great potential, but I am skeptical how soon this is going to take off in India. There are so many sites that are trying to cash in (youtube clones like meravideo, apnatube, digg clones like indianpad, indiahappening etc., delicious clones) on this phenomemon for Indian audience, but I have not seen any of them having any meaningful or “real” UGC. Most of them seem to be full of sleazy bollywood content.



  3. Hi Madhur, I think it’ll just take one legal notice (not even a lawsuit) from some studio to get all the Indian video content sites to start cleaning up their act. Probably wont be possible without stronger cyber laws.

    Do remember that India has the highest usage of mobile phone cameras, and there’s nothing stopping people from shooting movie clips….and not that they aren’t doing it already *wink, wink*.

    One just has to get them used to uploading that content. I think content aggregation is the next big thing, and Michael Eisner has endorsed what I’ve mentioned in this post, during his speech at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

    There are quite a few international short films, particularly animated films, that are being watched on YouTube. I’d like to see the Indian content sites aggressively promote usage by hosting competitions for user generated content. A first prize of Rs.10,000 should be enough, and I guess it won’t cost them more than three times that much to host and promote it. Let’s see if sponsors are willing, though.

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