More and more “vending machines” are being built to support user-generated content. Some of them are nicer about it than others. In all cases, the premise is that users will fill up the site with things to see. “Things” has come to mean video clips more often than not, though songs and podcasts count, too.
How much of it is worth watching? If you went to Google Video or YouTube or even Blip.tv without a preconceived notion of what you wanted to watch, how many videos do you think you’d have to wade through to find the decent stuff? I’m guessing the magic number is 11 attempts, and even then, you’re going to settle on something, not find something pertinent to your life directly. It’s the same reason we watch Discovery Channel. It’s interesting, though not pertinent.
Most user-generated content is stupid.
It’s a lot like when the first word processing software became ubiquitous along with dot matrix printers. Suddenly, lots more people were writers. Why weren’t they? They had the hardware, right? Ditto when desktop publishing software came along. People started producing and mailing out newsletters to their families. I made some. Did you? (Do you still?)
When video cameras became ubiquitous, lots of movie producers cropped up. The same is true of digital photographers, podcasters, kids with guitars, adults with banjos.
The tools don’t equate to talent, skill, a sense for what people want to hear.
It’s not that the stuff is wrong to create. If you want to record videos of your grandma doing weird faces with her teeth out, have a ball. Instead, it’s that the feedback loop of such content will be short lived. There’s this initial thrill of, “Hey! I’m on the internet,” and then suddenly, it’s not a big stink any more.
The only problem is: I think places that need media content to sell ads against smell this source of free content and are promoting the hell out of the notion that you can be a star. It’s a hugely American experience, that goal to be a star with little to no hard work. And yet, I suspect that the dream is fairly common around the globe. It might harken back to our need to feel confident in the survival of our genetic material, I’m not sure.
We are monkeys with shiny glowing boxes.
We love to see ourselves reflected in this computer box. First, we do it without the internet, drafting great stories in our word processors and outliners. We post pictures to our file folders, collecting and gathering a digital story of our lives. Then, we learn about blogging, so we take our sense of what makes us meaningful and throw it on the web. Whoa. Now, we’re PUBLISHED on a website! Ditto photos, video, podcasts.
I admit that it’s a thrill to see my name in the iTunes software. But.. but I put it there. I didn’t do what traditional artists did. I didn’t endure the awkward machinations of the media machine, toiling away in obscurity for years to “earn” a spot in the media’s eyes. Nope. I copy/pasted my RSS feed into their “add your feed here” line, and I was on iTunes.
How do I KEEP my stuff on iTunes and otherwise? I make sure it’s good, that people want it, and that I deliver it consistently. But it’s not much different.
People think that Google Adsense and affiliate ads are the way to go. Not true. I’ve not yet seen a single check for all the ads I’ve bothered putting up and taking down and rearranging over the last several months. Not a dime. And that’s a trickle method. You spend an hour or two creating a program, folks download it, and then you get $0.04 from Google? Two hours of your effort was worth four cents?
I believe we must all strive to create quality in what we’re putting out there. If we’re blogging, make it worth reading. If you’re podcasting, build your show with your audience foremost in your mind. Make your effort a part of the passion you feel for the medium, and strive to improve constantly. Be wary of places that trade your content for a few pennies.
Most of all, continue to strive to turn this current Vaudeville into the next motion picture world, only from the multi-perspective, fringe crowd universe instead of the “We won’t show this unless it clears $20 Million” set.