Participatory Media and UGC: Myth or Building to Symbiosis?

Via Chuq, Scott Karp makes the case that User-Generated Content is a myth:

A whole mythology is emerging around the idea of “users” — consumers, fans, regular average folk — creating content that media companies and brands can leverage. It’s a compelling idea — but it’s a myth. The reality is that “average people” don’t create a lot of content — at least not the commercially viable kind. Most people are too busy. Those that do “create content” — and who do it well — are those who are predisposed to being content creators. The have some relevant skills, training, raw talent, motivation, something.

Good discussion in the comments.

Chuq wants us to distinguish identity, and I would add sharing, from content creation. “What goes on on facebook isn’t necessarily content creation. Setting up a profile isn’t really getting involved in content creation.”

On the other hand,  Nate Ritter and Josh Catone review the ways in which participatory media has contributed to our understanding of the SoCal fires. Writing at ReadWriteWeb Catone says the fires have highlighted “the emerging symbiotic relationship between citizen journalists and the mainstream news media.”

Many news outlets have solicited, and subsequently used, submissions from people capturing news with cell phone cameras and on blogs (and Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc.) Multimedia platform Veeker, which last week signed a deal with NBC to handle viewer uploads in 10 major cities, said that NBC San Diego recieved over 2000 submissions of pictures and video related to the wildfires. CNN’s I-Reports section reportedly received about the same number of fire-related submissions.

 (Not unrelatedly,’s Off the Bus project was covered in the NYT the other day.) 


Finally, Stephanie Kanowitz reminds us that even august journalistic entities like CNN can feature goofy news by summarizing some recent CNN “Latest News” headlines:


2 thoughts on “Participatory Media and UGC: Myth or Building to Symbiosis?

  1. The problem with discussing this topic is that there’s a cadre of hucksters who are dedicated to fogging, confusing, and conflating the understanding, in the service of marketing.

    It’s no grand statement to say that unpaid freelancing exists. But that’s not good hype-fodder. Creating a whole edifice of the-little-people-WORK-FOR-YOU-FOR-FREE!!! (which is what “user-generated-content” means to them, in practice) – well, that will get you a conference spot, a consulting gig, etc.

    Hence this cycle of creative fiction, debunking, retreat, etc.

    It’s all very understandable when looked at from the business angle, though that doesn’t make it any more bearable.

  2. This whole issue of content creation vs/and sharing is quite complex. I’m starting to realize this as I do more and more work on it. With my student Gina Walejko we just finished a paper on this based on UIC data. I look forward to sharing the findings with you! (Yes, this is teaser.;-)

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