Is User Generated Content Evil?

I have just read an interview in the October .Net magazine with Andrew Keen. Andrew is self proclaimed as one of the most hated people on the net because of his criticism of Web 2.0, current social network habits and online culture. As hated as he may be by the masses, I feel most of what he is talking about is very intelligent, and well worth listening to. Are the sites like YouTube, MySpace and Flickr ultimately rather evil? Is user generated content the future of entertainment?  Or is it just a big scam to drive traffic and sell advertisements, and line the pockets of the already wealthy. Here is an excerpt from the .net interview:

.net: Why don’t you like user-generated content and social networks? Isn’t it great that the power is in the hands of the people now?

AK: Who says that power is in the hands of the people? I don’t see any evidence of this. The A-list bloggers – mostly rich, white men in silicon valley – are no more representative of the “people” than any other traditional cultural or economic elite. The only “people” economically benefiting from user generated content are the millionaires at Google, YouTube, MySpace and Flickr.

User generated content is a huge scam. It’s a way for the owners of sites such as YouTube and MySpace to get content for free, drive massive audiences and then sell advertising around it. If the content has any value, then the creators should sell it…

Consider The Effect Of Your Actions In Social Networks

I think it is hard to argue that there isn’t a financial drive in the motive behind any venture on the net. Ultimately the reason why these types of sites are started are to make money, and I don’t think you can hold it against the pioneers of these sites for having a great idea in the first place. However, it is worth at least considering the effect of your actions when creating content for someone else. When you upload a video to YouTube and it is viewed thousands of times, who is making money from it? Not you. Would you be happy if you knew what sort of revenue was being generated from your MySpace blog.

When you invite an email friend to join a social network like MySpace, you are giving their email away. On MySpace you can’t even read a private message or comment without visiting the site, which is littered with in your face advertising.

Where Does Blogging Fit Into The Picture?

Most blog platforms allow you to place your own advertisements. You can make money from blogging. You can produce content, and drive traffic to a site where you benefit. And when you own the domain that the blog is on, there are also long term benefits, such as page rank, profile and branding etc.

Content that you create, under your own name, on your own domain, on your own blog creates value for you. Content that you create anonymously, for a large social network site like MySpace or YouTube, creates value from someone else.  On that note here is some user generated content created by someone else, that I feel adds particular value to this topic:

Prometeus – The Media Revolution:

Epic 2015:

29 thoughts on “Is User Generated Content Evil?”

  1. To suggest that people would invest a lot of time and money in a website that they don’t intend to make money off would be naive. To complain about the fact that people are making money off a website that they invested that much time and money in is just as naive.
    99% of all world changing inventions/events were started with the aim of making money or acquiring power. They change the world and make a few people rich/powerful. That does not change their impact…

  2. @ Joost: From the article: “Ultimately the reason why these types of sites are started are to make money, and I don’t think you can hold it against the pioneers of these sites for having a great idea in the first place.”
    There is nothing wrong with people trying to make moeny from the net, this article is about considering the weight of your actions as a user.

  3. I understand what you’re saying (although that is not obvious from my comment). Andrew Keen just riles me up so I was actually commenting on what he said in the .NET article.
    I totally agree with your criticism on his views.

  4. The problem is having incentive for the users to contribute quality content.

    They have to want to be part of a community

  5. Your point on who owns the content is very important. This is why I do most of my work on blogs. On top of that I create forums on my blogs so that my guests create even more content for me.
    We never know what might become of myspace or facebook..I even avoid blogspot. Bruce

  6. There are very very few sites created with a motive, most of the time its monetary, it sth eworld we live in, the social community in large part detests the make money crowd

  7. I fail how this is any different than magazines. In fact mags are probably worse because they charge you to get them then fill the mag with 50% ads which they also get money from.

    Those big sites have huge operating costs to accommodate that much traffic. I see no problem with them profiting from their hard work.

  8. You bring up a good point but in the same vein can’t I argue that every news outlet in history is influenced by a much greater degree because the want to please their advertisers (read: bread & butter)

  9. Yes, I totally that if the objective is to make money, like the big boys do, people need to have their own websites, own domains, etc.

    And as to contributing to web2.0 communities, that’s a personal choice, and the contributors are getting something out of it. Gratification of the social process. or “fun” or whatever you call it. But if they want to boycott the likes of myspace or youtube, then they should just stop having “fun” on it altogether!

    Having said that, and knowing the reciprocity concept, I think for blogs, an additional way to give back to the contributors, is to give link love back to them (if they even know what to do with it). And that’s why I appreciate every blog that use keywordluv! =)

  10. User generated content is not evil if there’s full disclosure. We just have to look back at the Facebook controversy with Beacon.

    Obviously there’s value in Web 2.0 sites but I just feel weird building communities and selling stuff to “friends”.

  11. If he hates user generated content on the web i bet he hates reality tv shows. They do same thing. They get people to do tv show for free for chance to win prize and make millions off the shows. They have no real costs only filming and host not like tv shows who pay huge money for actors.

    I guess it is same thing about user content on the web people want thier 15 seconds of fame and someone else make sthe money off them.

    Great article makes you really think.

  12. I think some people make videos and get traffic from utube to thier own site. This way they earn money off content also. It works both ways some sites make money off free content and some other sites get traffic from user content sites.

    No one makes you add to the sites so you can not blame them for trying to make money off the user content.

  13. Of course nobody offers services for free, even claiming them free. Sometimes the desire of making money out of the web-source is so evident that it goes beyond the mark. As in case of modern LJ, for example.

  14. The power is totally in the hands of the people they big media just don’t know it yet. Twitter scoops major news faster than anything.

  15. I don’t feel user content is evil. Wikipedia is an amazing source of information. I don’t see evil there. Blogging is open to everyone, not only for the white and rich people. If the blogger is good – he will have success. web 2.0 may be changed in the future, but for now, I do not see anything bad about it.

  16. I personally don’t see anything wrong with Web 2.0 but I don’t utilize it since I think it is a poorly converting traffic source. Think about it, most everyone with a website or blog is searching for traffic in some form. Web 2.0 traffic is generalized and not targeted, therefore it does not convert well.

    That being said, the Internet is the last bastion of complete freedom. If people use Web 2.0 for monetary purposes, I’m all for them making a buck. I just happen not to use it since I think it a waste of time for organic and targeted traffic. Just my 2 cents!

  17. Web 2.0 might not always be the best converting traffic, however the backlinks from quality web 2.0 sites are priceless, not to mention certain sites like squidoo, hubpages all rank very well and if done right will convert very nicely.

  18. To say user generated content is evil is a little hefty don’t you think? I believe that as long as the content is useful and well researched, then it can only add to the general consensus.

    However, there is a lot of rubbish online and the fact that people can setup free blogs with ease is not helping.

  19. User generated content…evil because it lines the pocket of giants like google in the case of sites like Youtube…at least you should read the article before adding your opinion.

  20. I know when we contribute content to social networking sites, we help to build up someone else sites. I think about it sometimes, but I don’t hold anything against the owners. By nature we have to contribute something to somewhere to gain something in return. It makes sense! However, I understand AK’s concern.

    Setting up a blog under one’s own domain name is better. You have the full control over the site and work out how best to monetize it.

  21. I think user generated content is the new wave of the internet and has great staying power, we have only begun to see the beginning of this new internet trend.

  22. Although this article and thoughts are very unique but I think we can’t survive blogging or internet marketing without social media networking. I think it is not about powers or rules but it is about a common man. What he can do and what is beyond limits.

  23. Up to a certain extant AK is right, few web sites on the web are actually making huge money for user’s content. It is always better to own a domain because it gives you future benefits and it’s your till the time you want to own it and off course all the content.

    But social media sites like Digg and Twitter, these are good site because they provide the platform to share ideas and good things available on the web. It is not possible for a person to search the internet whole the day and it is always better if he can get good things recommended by community on these social media site.

  24. “Is User Generated Content Evil?” ?!?!

    By most accounts user generated content is the future of the internet. This is evidenced by the way social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc, have all become some of the biggest things on the internet. Have to wholeheartedly disagree with this blog post.

  25. When you phrase everything in terms of the bottom line profits of course, it makes sites that benefit from user generated content seem evil. In many ways i agree, that users should start hosting their own content. And in many ways this is happening, but just at a slower rate than the big giants in the online community such as youtube, myspace, twitter etc. While i doubt they will eventually disappear i think the focus will disseminate. Furthermore, it should be noted that many individuals use the big companies for traffic by placing links or text into their videos that generate referral traffic. Taking advantage is starting to go both ways in the community as the smaller guys get smarter.

  26. The Net has transformed the way in which businesses operate, however it stays a fact that the most effective companies are those that have loyal customers. Conceivably that has never been more true than today, when website’s readers are genuinely its very best asset.

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