Tuesday, August 14, 2007

User-generated content is dead; long live User-generated content

Guess I haven’t bashed a research report/survey for a while. Thus I feel it my solemn duty to trash the latest study from Online Publishers’ Association of its 4 year old Internet Activity Index, which tracks our usage of ‘e-commerce, communications, and content and search services over time’.

The Internet Activity Index is maintained by Nielsen Net Ratings. It reports,

(While) in 2003, Internet users spent about 46 percent of their time communicating and 34 percent reading online content.

From January to May 2007, about 47 percent of users' time was spent looking at content and 33 percent spent on communicating.

So it was very easy for many to proclaim that users are reading more and saying less.

Maybe, if they had said that we are watching more and typing less, I would have agreed – there is so much video online.

In fact, I don’t get the basic premise of this study, vis-à-vis the ratio of reading and writing.

If this is supposed to help advertisers devise ad strategies, I hope the advertisers keep a couple of things in mind:

1. As Ars Technica points out, the OPA study does not think Social Networking is communication, only e-mail is.

And you thought Social Networking Advertising was going to be big – where Myspace is rolling in big money while Facebook struggles with its innovation shtick.

2. Getting your message across to online video watchers will indeed be beneficial if you figure out a way to reach to them without annoying them.

Another thing I would like to know is that while we knew Pageview was an inadequate metric, was Nielsen Netratings using Time spent on page all these 4 years?

There is this Sample Size and Projection thing.
No one came asking me, if you know what I mean.

Coming back to blogging and commenting, two essential aspects of UGC. I know 2007 has been …a LEAN year for blogging.

But that is only the disheartened Professional Blogger’s version – people are still putting their thoughts on their blogs everywhere.

This Hugh Macleod illustrates the disheartened blogger’s state of mind.

In another post, titled “why we're all blogging less” Hugh reasons:
They said what they had to say, then moved on. It happens all the time with book writers, why not the same with bloggers?

Valid point. But that isn’t how the chatterbox/shoutbox operates.

You normal blogger is like one of my friends – one who has opinions for everything; isn’t afraid to voice them, however repetitious they might be.

User Generated Content is not stagnating.

B.L. Ochman says that new people are going into blog – C-level executives and businesses who are using blogs as PR tools, among other things. He thinks group blogs are better suited for long-term survival, where absence of one member can be offset easily.

User generated content is moving into newer stream – Twitter, for example.
I wonder whether Nielsen tracks Twitter activity.

People are commenting on blogs and sites like Digg/reddit as strongly as before.
At least that’s what I can tell, and I have no metric to measure comment activity levels.

Wikipedia is going strong.
The activity is robust enough and you find detailed articles on breaking news faster than big news sites.

Citizen Journalism, though still not in full flow, is going steady on sites like Topix.com, Nowpublic.com.

For a final measure, the moment Michael Arrington tells us that commenting on Techcrunch is not what it was before, I shall know times are changing.

Till then, long live UGC.

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