User-generated content (also called user-created content) is
|“||(i) content made publicly available over the Internet, (ii) which reflects a certain amount of creative effort, and (iii) which is created outside of professional routines and practices. UCC can be distinguished from user-generated content (UGC), where users through their interactions (passively) generate further content.||”|
The trend toward consumer empowerment stems in large part from consumers’ new role as content producers. The concept of consumers creating and publishing their own content, not merely being passive recipients of professionally produced content is one of the most important developments of the past few years, and one which will likely dominate the coming decade. Such user-generated content (UGC) is the foundation of blogs, vlogs, podcasts, photo and video sharing sites, social networking sites, wikis, dating sites, tagging sites, and auction sites. It is central to multiplayer online games and virtual worlds, and even has become a feature on the sites of many Fortune 500 companies. The content spans formats — text, audio and video — and includes consumer reviews and rankings, entertainment, information and, sometimes, misinformation.
The past decade has witnessed the explosive growth of the Internet, as, among other things, a medium of communication and content. The Internet and tools created for it also allow instant production of — and access to — content in the form of news, information, and entertainment. Driven in part by the deployment of more affordable broadband access, consumers are spending more time online and are able to engage in more activities requiring high bandwidth, such as viewing audio and video, and transferring large files. The resulting growth in user-generated content, including blogs and vlogs on a seemingly unlimited number of topics, has been staggering.
Much of the communication via social networking and other user-generated content sites is purely social, with no commercial outcomes. Some user-generated content, though, is exactly the opposite, having been designed to tout products, provide reviews, or otherwise recommend or warn against products. Consumer reviews have become staples of pre-purchase research. One website that publishes consumer product reviews says some consumers who participate in its online forums are as knowledgeable as the site's own experts, and that their opinions are highly valued by other users.
Some companies post user reviews on their own websites, with varying degrees of editorial control. In some instances, the companies tightly control the content that consumers post, while others merely eliminate spam and try to keep the comments product-directed. Still others assign various levels of credibility to reviewers, and identify reviews by paid experts or company staff.
Other user-generated sites are a kind of hybrid: they start out as purely non-commercial vehicles, but become popular enough to draw thousands of visitors daily. When this happens, these sites may become attractive candidates for commercial advertisers to use in directing advertising messages to target audiences. Clearly, the line between consumers and content producers is blurring as we enter the next decade.
- ↑ Virtual Worlds-Immersive Online Platforms for Collaboration, Creativity and Learning, at 47 n.12.
- ↑ See Press Release, comScore, "Online Consumer-Generated Reviews Have Significant Impact on Offline Purchase Behavior" (Nov. 29, 2007) (full-text) (summarizing the findings of an October 2007 survey of Internet users regarding the importance of consumer-generated reviews. According to the survey results, nearly one-quarter of offline shoppers used online reviews to guide purchase decisions, more than three-quarters of those using reviews reported that they had a significant effect on decision-making, and 97% of those who made a purchase based on a review reported that the review had been accurate).
- ↑ Worldwide revenues for social networking sites are also on the rise, expected to increase from $1.2 billion in 2007 to $4.1 billion by 2011. See eMarketer.com, "Social Network Marketing: Ad Spending and Usage" (Dec. 2007) (full-text).