Derek Powazek makes an excellent point in Death to User-Generated Content:

Calling the beautiful, amazing, brilliant things people create online "user-generated content" is like sliding up to your lady, putting your arm around her and whispering, "Hey baby, let's have intercourse."
They're words that creepy marketeers use. They imply something to be commodified, harvested, taken advantage of. They're words I used to hear a lot while doing community consulting, and always by people who wanted to make, or save, a buck.
Think about the rest of the world. Writers produce stories or articles. Authors write fiction or memoir. These are words infused with meaning and romance. Can you imagine a writer saying "I am a content provider" when asked what they do?

I couldn't agree more.

The things I put on Flickr are photos. And the stuff on my blog? That's writing (or ranting, in some cases).

Nobody has ever commented to me about my "content", but they do mention my pictures or writing from time to time.

Why do we need new, less precise, terminology when the existing language seems to work just fine?

Posted by jzawodn at April 04, 2006 04:31 PM

Reader Comments
# David Sifry said:

I have occasionally used this turn of phrase (at least it is better than its evil sister "consumer generated content") and I use it as a more precise way of talking about stuff people create and put online, generally to share - photos, writing, pictures, art, comments, blog posts, you name it.

"User Generated Content" is still way too much in the packaging metaphor, it is true - I don't think of this great set of creative works as merely "content" meant to fill a "channel", but I must say that I am at a loss to find a better term to sum up all of these different types of creativity online...

Dave

on April 4, 2006 05:41 PM
# Robert Scoble said:

Jeremy,

I first heard this term back last October when YOUR CEO was using it on stage at the Google Zeitgeist conference.

Here's what I said about it back then: http://scobleizer.wordpress.com/2005/11/10/i-dont-use-the-internet-so-why-am-i-a-user/

Here's where I first said I was sick of this term: http://scobleizer.wordpress.com/2005/10/26/im-sick-of-hearing-about-user-created-content/

Ahh, I love being the leader of a new trend! :-)

on April 4, 2006 05:45 PM
# nearlY! said:

Good point....as Chevy found out with their attempt at user generated advertising.

on April 4, 2006 06:20 PM
# AC said:

LOL, Scoble, doesn't M$ think it owns all "user-generated" content on its .Net Sourceforge-ripoff community site?

on April 4, 2006 07:01 PM
# Trogdor The Geek said:

I first returned to a non-horizontal position in my construction worker built object. I then mobilized myself on the horizontal solid to the open ended porcelain floored cube and mobilized myself inside of it. I then remained in the non-horizontal position under the downward flowing non-solid matter and used and used a foreign particle removing solid to remove the foreign particles from my organic texture. I used the liquid absorber to remove the left over previously downward flowing non-solid matter from my organic texture. I placed some non-plastic textures on top of my organic textures and concealed the non-accepted viewing areas.

Translation: I woke up, took a shower, and got dressed.

See the rest of the my post @ http://trogdor.blogs.com/codemonkey/2006/04/zawodny_why_do_.html

on April 4, 2006 07:03 PM
# Rick Burnes said:

UGC is a terrible word, but content? How else do you express what comes across your feeds in one word? Not "writing", not "photos", not "audio" -- it's content.

on April 4, 2006 08:05 PM
# Jeremiah Owyang said:

I agree, Authentic Media is a good replacement for UGC or CGM.

But Inauthentic Media is NOT a good term for everything else.

What about movies? music? Ansel Adams? Are they not authentic because they are no longer consumers?

on April 4, 2006 08:13 PM
# Roger Benningfield said:

I agree with Rick... when you're talking about the dizzying array of things that people are creating out there, "content" is the best term. Although if you're feeling casual, I guess "stuff" would do.

on April 4, 2006 08:22 PM
# Michael Conlen said:

Don't you know I only love you for your content?

on April 4, 2006 08:33 PM
# Morgan Schweers said:

Greetings,
'Authentic' is crap, there are plenty of inauthentic blogs out there. How about 'Raw', or 'Unfiltered', or 'Populist' Media? Not that sleazy marketeers are going to use either of those.

How about UGC == User Generated Creativity?

Uncentralized General Contributions?

HMmm! How does 'Contributed Value' sound? That's what everybody's building off of. You don't need to add 'User' in there, because it's implicit in the contribution.

If 'Value' scares you because it suggests the users might want money for what they're giving, Contributed Media is actually nearly something you could convince a Chief *something* Officer to use to describe the value that the users add to the site. It's not all touchy-feely, like 'Authentic', but it's got a decent meaning.

-- Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

on April 4, 2006 10:24 PM
# said:

Unwashed Mass Media?

on April 4, 2006 10:47 PM
# Ben McConnell said:

I'm with ya on all of the above. Every group has its jargon and in the race toward efficiency, jargon is often reduced to acronyms. The challenge is to find a term that has contextual meaning for everyone.

We've been using "citizen marketers" as a term to describe what you're talking about. Contextually, though, that's a term largely geared toward marketers.

on April 4, 2006 10:57 PM
# Oliver Thylmann said:

The thing is that this "User Generated Content" is not the stuff you write, it's like with any other content provider. You strike a deal and content comes to you. In this case, you strike a deal with the world at large (e.g. good website that helps me lessen a problem I have) and you get back content. User Generated Content. Don't hang on a word. In general it fits. You don't have automatically generated content (like you might call a financial portal) or bought content or bad content. You have ... I think you understood what I mean by now ;)

on April 4, 2006 11:06 PM
# Adam S. said:

Ah, the dreaded "marketeer," bete boir of the internet and enemy of all that is good and light. I wonder, though, have any of these vile creatures every been spotted in the wild?

Having been both a techie and a, um, marketeer, I must say that the term "user generated content" sounds much more like tech-speak to me than marketing-speak. I suppose jargon is in the eye of the beholder...

on April 5, 2006 12:10 AM
# Sencer said:

Brilliant Idea. Let's force marekters to do away with their language. And next, I support making doctors get rid of their language. I mean don't you just hate it when you go to a doctor with your beatiful wife. And rather than referring to the wonderful pear-shaped breasts of hers, he's spouting some clinical and/or latin descriptions like all he's talking about is a bag of meat and bones. As if humans and their sicknesses can be commoditized and treated according to some general rules, rather than with individual empathy. This can't be! It's degrading to humans. Like them darwinists who like to talk about "humanoids" and "sapiens" as if humans could be asigned to some larger group. No, they're special! And they desrved to be refered to individually.

When marketers are are using the word "user-generated content" they are basically advocating a world-view as in the Matrix-Movie where humans reared to provide content.We gotta fight them marketer-nazis and their degrading language!

on April 5, 2006 12:34 AM
# Marshall Kirkpatrick said:

Gotta say, I like the phrase. Perhaps it's distinct from admin uploaded conte...stuff. When a system derives value from the contributions of decentralized participants who are outside of the creation of the basic framework that houses their contributions - then I'd say they are users and they created or generated those contributions. And it's content - that which the system contains after it's been contributed.

I've been trying to use the letters RSS less often, and if I hadn't just printed a batch of biz cards that use the phrase web 2.0 I might consider dropping that - but sometimes user generated content is an apt description and I think it's a lot more understandable to non-technical users than many other things. Wiki - there's a problem term for ya, for example.

on April 5, 2006 12:54 AM
# King Bastard said:

Dictionary meanings:

User: One who uses. Like, you know, a user that has joined Flickr and uses the service free in exchange by allowing Flickr to profit off of their content (nothing's for free kids).

Generated: To construct, like taking a photo.

Content: The subject matter of a written work, such as a book or magazine. Often used in the plural.

User-generated content states exactly what's going on. Authentic media is web 2.0 speak to distract from who's really creating the content. Why confuse the end user?

on April 5, 2006 12:56 AM
# amused said:

Brilliant!!

on April 5, 2006 01:49 AM
# len said:

It means "free bits". That's all. It doesn't even rise to the level of 'signal' in many cases.

This is the ownership society where value isn't necessary but links are. In a "Hard Day's Night" review the scene where George Harrison accidentally stumbles into the office of an advertising executive talking with his assistant about the hot model and plotting her time frame of buzz value. Any media and media star goes through the same 'we are it' and 'we are giggling' and finally, 'Jane get me off this crazy thing' phases. So it was with the rockers and now with the bloggers.

In a world where everyone is publishing, everyone is searching for signal.

on April 5, 2006 06:21 AM
# Dave T said:

I used to work at the local supermarket Deli. The manager always called the ham and turkey "product" which really didn't make a big pile of ham look very good.

Fortunately we didn't call it product when talking to the customers. So 'User Generated Content' might be fine for certain purposes, but yes, it does take away from the writing, photos or whatever you are creating.

-Dave

on April 5, 2006 07:13 AM
# wonkthis said:

Scoble, you're such an attention whore. Someone else says something meaningful on a topic and all you have to contribute is I said it first? What are you 12? Dude, get a real job will ya? You're a leach not a creator.

Add value to the conversation or STFU.

on April 5, 2006 08:22 AM
# MikeM said:

The bloggerati (self ascribed) slamming the hoi polloi bloggers, how quaint. This is the attitude that has put the "old media" with their backs against the wall.
I guess this elitist crap was bound to come to the surface.

Observation- Why do multi-millionaires blog in the first place?

on April 5, 2006 10:46 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Who are the mutli-millionaires you refer to?

on April 5, 2006 10:57 AM
# lantzilla said:

I think the point that Derek originally made was that to coin a person as a "user" is very sterile and mechanical. The same can be said for "content." It lacks any hint of humanism. I being a member of a "User Experience" group sometimes ponder the jargon we use. I think the term "user" makes sense when we consider a person in a particular context (as a part of an interactive system in in which that "user" is just one actor in an array of actors).

However, people do need a concept to grab ahold of, so they can talk about that "thing." Our industry is littered with a ton of examples...Ajax comes to mind. Despite the fact (some) engineers scoff at the term, dismissing it as buzz words, there has been some value in terming it.

User Genterated Content is an oversimplified euphemism for "Things that people make to express themselves, connect with other people and create a rich and meaning histories." Why not an acronym? We don't have enough of those. TTPMTETCWOPACARAMH?" Okay, I'm getting a little punchy.

George Carlin would have a field day.

on April 5, 2006 11:23 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Keep dreaming.

It's gonna be a long, long time before I end up in any millionaire's club.

on April 5, 2006 11:41 AM
# Robert Chatman said:

I actually had to write a paper at one point, in my speech class about 3 years ago. The title of the paper was "User Content?" which turned into a 14 page term paper in which i took a strong stance against this garbage and meaningless term. I have been "using" the internet for more than 12 years, and I had my first blog, although it wasnít called it back then, on an old geocities website that I built probably 10 years ago. For all intents and purposes, there is no such thing as non user generated content, the green men upstairs didnít create anything, but I suppose if they had, they would be users. That said, when you have a name given to an item, say a car, and you give it a sub name, dodge neon, it does not make much sense to call this a dodge neon car. If all content is user generated, than it is not user generated content, it is content.

Another problem is that people look at these corporate dreamed up terms as a slap in the face to the general public that are described there in. users, user generated content, and even programmer are terms that arenít taken lightly. I have only been given interviews at places that I have submitted my resume to when I replace programmer with developer, which to the lay person, has little difference, but because I program for fun and work, I have the ability to say that I donít just program, I develop.

I guess that I am rambling about the naming conventions that I donít like. It is almost like the words that have been created are an attempt to squeeze everyone through a cookie cutter name.

on April 5, 2006 12:35 PM
# Don said:

I think user-generated content is a useful term for describing a broad subject matter. If you don't like UGC, be more specific about what you are talking about (ie., reviews, posts, comments, etc.).

on April 5, 2006 04:28 PM
# Jack Krupansky said:

I think user-generated content (UGC) is a good term. It's an abstraction, an abstract term, an umbrella term used to refer to a collection of classes of entities.

Sure, if you are referring strictly to a single class of entity, a more specific term is quite appropriate. Flikr can refer to "photos" and not go up a level of abstraction and refer to photos as "user-generated content". Ditto for Blogger and "blogs" or "blog posts". Etc.

But if you're a media baron or market analyst or "industry insider" and you're referring to that broader collection of different classes of entities, you *should* have a technical term that makes technical sense. The term "user-generated content" seems to fit the bill perfectly.

By all means, if any of you insiders have a better *technical* term, lets hear it. Offering "cute" wording is hardly a great technical contribution.

To "real" users, there content can be referred to by whatever name makes sense to them. They can call it "my photos", "my blog", "my writing", "my video", "my stuff", "my information", "my data", "my files", "My Sh*t", etc. They don't even have to know about this technical term "user-generated content".

But if you want to be an "insider" and talk about "the industry" (Web 2.0, New Media, Social Networking, et al), why not try to use terminology that can be used to refer to concepts in an unambiguous manner?

That's my two cents of user-generated content, for what it's worth.

-- Jack Krupansky

on April 5, 2006 06:15 PM
# Matt said:

"User-generated content" is useful as a generic term for the phenomenon under discussion. When you're proposing sex, you're not talking about sex in general...you're talking about specific sex with a specific person. To the individual users, their content is personal. But to the company building tools to distribute or use it, it's just data. This is not exploitative or degrading relationship...it's just the reality of asymmetrical perceptions.

I don't especially care if Yahoo is interested in the nature of the traffic on my Group, any more than I care whether my supermarket monitors my diet. We're talking about commercial transactions for mutual benefit. Building a community around my data is MY problem, not Yahoo's. Yahoo's job is to supply me with the tools to make that happen.

Guy Kawasaki explained it well in his first book, way before Web 2.0 (or Web 1.0, or the days when anybody but us nickel-plated nerds had heard of this "internet" thing). Give users good _tools_, and let them make their own _solutions_.

To expect the application company to view the content the same way as the users do is to commingle "tools" with "solutions" to an excessive (and, I believe, ultimately harmful) degree.

on April 6, 2006 04:19 AM
# E. David Zotter said:

I don't know that i agree with your thinking....


Here is the way I see it:

User Generated Content is.... content that some company didn't have to pay people to manufacture.


Flickr, del.icio.us / digg.com, myspace, linkedin, various bloggers, a lot of the 'web2.0' crowd, etc:

They didn't have to pay photographers to take the pictures and then license those pictures.

They didn't have to pay journalists and editors a salary to spend all day dreaming up things to write about (like if you were CNN or WSJ).

They didn't have to hire employees to think of clever sites to review or list out.

They didn't have to pay anyone to score the information and categorize it.

...and as a result, they amassed two things:
1) a lot of content that is growing very quickly
2) viewers/readers/people interacting with this content


Paying people to build content costs big bucks and creates overhead. Big costs and big overhead make it difficult to scale a company quickly.

This is exactly why Yahoo is better off getting content from elsewhere instead of trying to hire your own newsdesk, talking heads, or blah blah blah resources that require salaries and $$$$. It is also likely the reason that your crew has bought many of these startups instead of hiring talk show personalities or gifted journalists to the Yahoo payroll.


Why is this better to have user generated content instead? Because businesses based on this type of content are more scalable and less likely to reach a growth plateau.
Content is still king.... owning the distribution channel is no longer necesary.

The more personalized, niche, and late breaking content that you have, the better off you are.


It would be impossible for a startup to build this amount of content on their own... and even if they could, the business wouldn't scale.


....and hence.... user generated content is better than corporate generated content. Any way you slice it, there are more users than employees. And why such a generic term is applicable.

Personally, I like the term 'user generated content'.... it is simple, clean, and short... even if the masters of the blogoverse don't like it. :-)

Best,
E. David Zotter

P.S. you going to the BGSU Homecoming this year? Let's catch up over a pint if you are.

on April 6, 2006 07:58 AM
# Aristus said:

Isn't "community consulting" also a marketeer's phrase that connotes something to be freeze-dried and sold in parcels?

I think it's on of those irregular conjugations, e.g.: "I am visionary, YOU are eccentric, and HE is a bloody lunatic."

on April 6, 2006 07:27 PM
# Jon Silk said:

Content sounds like 'stomach contents' or 'bowel contents'. I remember the first time someone used it about me - I was the editor of a mobile tech website (my first online position) and was given the title 'content editor'. I dropped the first bit after a couple of weeks.

'Content' refer to the stuff from a business/exploitation point of view? Like - "Hey - leverage that content asap. Let's discuss it on a telecon. Ciao."

As words and pictures have grown in value, they're being used in the corporate environment as currency. True, the word 'content' devalues the end product somewhat, but sales people never read what they're selling anyway.

on April 11, 2006 06:10 AM
# Prelit trees said:

Well, he has a point. But if you're the user than this means war.

on February 1, 2008 04:37 PM
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