Fortune: The Sky Is Falling On User-Generated Content

Nov 21st, 2008 | By | Category: Internet TV, Streaming Video, Video

It looks like Chicken Little is behind the wheel at Fortune magazine.

Fortune’s Richard Siklos says that “User-generated video under siege,” and that it’s being sidelined by mainstream media’s move into Internet media.

What’s obviously happening here is the beginning of a monumental battle for online video viewers’ attention.

YouTube or someone else may yet figure out how to get rich on user-generated content. But for the most part it’s a cultural phenomenon, not a commercial one.

You – that is, the Time 2006 Person of the Year “you” – will not drive the web video revolution. The pros will still be pros, just as they were in the late 19th century. That’s when, to cite one relevant historical example, the advent of consumer cameras was supposed to obviate professional photographers. The Internet is fantastically egalitarian, but only to a point.

Fortune’s argument, in essence, is that people watch things like sxephil, Fred and HotForWords because there’s so little professionally produced mainstream content on the Web.

In other words, put a little more NBC, CBS and NBC on YouTube, and the little guys are history.

The problem with Fortune’s view is that it completely misunderstands the mindset of people who watch (and listen to) new media. We’re turning to YouTube because we want to leave ABC, CBS, NBC and the status quo behind.

We’re not watching the latest YouTube video because there’s no Lipstick Jungle. We’re watching the latest YouTube videos because they are more interesting than Lipstick Jungle and the rest of the status quo of mainstream TV.

We’re watching YouTube because we can watch what we want, when we want to watch it.

It’s true that there are a lot of people that still like to watch standard network television fare. That means that, as mainstream content moves to the Web, it will bring a lot of mainstream eyeballs with it.

But this doesn’t mean that user-generated videos will get pushed to the side.

It means that the audience for online video is going to radically expand over the next few years, as the range of video that is available online grows to be larger and more comprehensive than anything we’ve ever seen.

Image: Joe Andy

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7 Responses to “Fortune: The Sky Is Falling On User-Generated Content”

  1. Here in the UK the mainstream media, led by the BBC and the newspapers, drowned out UGC18 months ago.. exit BTPodshow et al. Except that people still make audio podcasts, video podcasts, blogs, and mashups, break rules and cross boundaries which mainstream media very, very rarely does. The margins have always been where the most innovative culture thrives – so what’s different?

  2. synthhead says:

    Dean – the Internet has made the margins larger and made it infinitely easier to find the stuff at the margins.

    Fringe content is the new mainstream. You can’t stuff all that bizarre stuff that people have been addicted to making and watching for the last three years back into the bottle.

  3. […] Original post: Fortune: The Sky Is Falling On User-Generated Content […]

  4. “Fringe content is the new mainstream.” – no it’s not – it’s still fringe – but I do agree with you that the margins are more visible, maybe larger than they were.

  5. “put a little more NBC, CBS and NBC on YouTube”
    NBC is used twice. It should be “ABC, CBS and NBC” or “NBC, CBS and ABC.”

    The fact does remain that a show which cost thousands or even millions is likely to draw more viewers than one that was made for a few dollars. But every now and then some sort of “Blair Witch” pops up which gets a lot of attention. Still, at it’s best the amateur YouTube stuff still looks about the same as a local cable access program.

    It’s still early enough that the small guy can get some recognition. But what draws attention is the quality, and big bucks tend to make for better quality. Simply looking at the number of viewers shows that, especially when it comes to torrents. The major producers are still worrying about montizing and haven’t completely figured out the Internet so there’s a lot of time yet before the average person has to worry about serious competition from them and their major advertizing budgets.

    And a small hobbiest doesn’t need the same numbers as a major producer does. For the hobbiest, a million hits may be huge but to a major producer a million viewers wouldn’t keep a show on the air. So while a hobbiest might get fewer hits, they can be satisfied with fewer hits. And most of the million plus videos on YouTube are one-shots and not the regular series that people are use to with TV.

    So the small time producer is still going to get hits for a long time to come, it’s just that they might not get the numbers of a major producer.

  6. While I don’t begrudge ABC, CBS, NBC TeleMundo, CBC, BBC, PRI Pacifica or any of the rest of the things floating in the alphabet soup, when there is even a HINT of a station dedicated to a disease and about living with and overcoming the limitations that nature imposes of people who are afflicted by it, then I’ll respect big media.

    I don’t think I’ll be shutting up any time soon as I don’t see them stepping up to the plate any time soon.

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    News, views, reviews and podsafe tunes for MSers BY MSers.

  7. Content and context are still king. As long as the major networks and labels continue to pump out the same content aimed at the lowest common denominator and selling more advertising there will always be room for the “little guy” who is passionate about bringing an alternative viewpoint to the table.

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