Watch your back, native advertising and sponsored content. According to Antoine Boulin in Folio: user-generated content is the new opportunity for publishers.
Boulin states that 80% of online content is now user-generated, and gives this as a reason for brands to embrace UGC in their publishing efforts. (That 80% stat is being repeated by other proponents of UGC; unfortunately Boulin doesn’t cite a source for it and we haven’t been able to confirm that figure on our own.)
According to Boulin, “Social media and self-publishing tools have created a glut of online amateur content while also increasing the overall quality of the material. As a result, we’ve seen a sea change in the way publishers work with and integrate UGC onto their sites, and the way they sell it as a value-add for brands.”
The glut part we totally agree with; the increased overall quality we challenge. And we aren’t sure we see how this is a value-add for brands that are already publishers, except as it translates to higher viewer and engagement metrics.
We do like some of the companies Boulin cites as examples of successful UGC curators (especially LinkedIn and Gawker). But the distinction here is that this is content curation, not creation, and this social proof model doesn’t hold water for true content producing publishers.
In fact, Boulin writes about these UGC-first networks now trying to evolve into publishers, rather than the other way around. Specialty publishers seem to like LinkedIn’s Influencer feature, where content from “power users” is featured and gains good viral visibility and these small publishing brands can snap up a proven piece of content. And again, LinkedIn is primarily a networking site that is now getting into publisher, or rather, content curation.
We do agree on this quote from Boulin: “It takes a smart publisher that can blend together a variety of disciplines–content, technology, community moderation, audience quality, advertising, etc., to make UGC work.”
Whether or not this can translate into the “significant upside” Boulin predicts is another question, and I think the jury’s still out on this one.