SXSW Panel notes: User generated content and original editorial: friend or foe

Jule Davidson (30Boxes), Will Smith (Maximum PC), Scott Rafer (moshery.com & mybloglog.com), Dave Snider (Comicvine), Mike Tatum (CNet), Evan Williams (Twitter, creator of Blogger.com).

[Post-panel observation: While I liked the people on the panel and they are experts on the topic, if you are familiar with the whole “user-generated-content” space, skip reading the following. Indeed, I will never again attend a panel on the topic of “user-generated-content.” If you want to learn about participatory, conversational media, don’t waste your time listening to people on a panel. Frankly, it is beyond ironic. You can only get it by doing it — or having a conversation about it.]

These are raw notes below, not direct quotes.

Snider: In the future, most sites will all be “user-generated” — three people can manage a community of 20,000. (comicvine.com). It’s much better to have a page with bad content than no content. It will cause someone to register and change it.

Smith: Mainstream audience wants to be spoonfed and led to the information.

Rafer: When you say, “mainstream” you are steretyping. Everyone is an expert geek (and expert tweak?) on something. They want to be spoonfed in other areas.

Tatum: As a j-school graduate, it makes me cringe when we say we don’t need editors. There’s no fact checking or tone when it’s just ‘user-generated’

Rafer: All the things you just said exists in a public fashion on user-generated sites.

Snider: We have editors. They are the three dozen users that are so super into it, they crush everyone one the sites. They’ll complain about the site, but will work on it every day. It’s the site they wanted to build, but didn’t have the expertise to build it. We just built the tools. The secret sauce is monopoly. Unless you give people a perk who spend all the time on the site. The get access to us and we’ll build them special features. Sometimes that monopoly money is just a badge.

Tatum: The top dozen who contribute, aren’t they going to ask as some time: “Don’t I own this?”

Snider: There will be a legal challenge, I’m sure. “You just sold your company — I want a piece of it.” Our contributors are young. That’s scary — but also why the grammar is bad.

Davidson: Your fear is that they’ll want to be paid.

Snider: I’d love to pay them. Many of them have gotten jobs. When we get money, I’ll hire them.

Rafer: Our hiring at mybloglog is coming out of the community.

Davidson: (Ownership issues question.) Webshots (former site), this was an issue. The terms of service, you reliquinshed ownership rights of photos you uploaded. At some point that will be legally challenged.

Snider: Has anyone read a terms of service? I took ours from another site.

Davidson: Someone will say I didn’t understand the TOS and a lawyer will take it on. YouTube/Google is probably the best target. Content reuse, generating revenue issues.

Williams: (Do you think there will be professional Twitterers?) It’s hard to call Twitter content. It’s more messaging, communication. But who knows? (About Blogger.com) I don’t necessarily agree that every media property needs to generated user content. There will always be demand for what they do (don’t know if there will be the money for it).

Rafer: (About mybloglog.com?) We stay away from presence and identity as a term. Yahoo has a means to figure out how people use their services, but not an understanding about how people who use blogs. They could use it as a means to understand the way people who read blogs use the blog. What the blogger wants is additional connections. It’s not so lonely. Our presence isn’t what the telecom guys would call presence. Something like 70% of people who create a profile say they have a blog. It’s clear they have profiles on multiple social networks. There are others where mybloglog is their only social profile.

Tatum: (About chowhound) The people on the site, it’s their only presence in that space. They don’t like it when we change because there is a sense of ownership by those who create the original content.

Snider: Go where no one else is. We went to comics for that reason.

(About Dogster, from the audience, Ted Rheingold?) We’ve brought in advertisers by “circle of trust” — we bring them into the community. It’s pretty clear on our site when it’s advertising and not. It helps that when marketers aren’t that creative.

Tatum: (About advertorials?) Our users are going to think we’re whores if we don’t do marketing content in a specific way. They are opposed to marketing messages in their space. So we do something unique for marketers: podcasts, for example.

Snider: Has anyone ever set up fake accounts to hang out with the angry users? I do. I want to know what the angry people think.

Tatum: I like your business model.

Williams: You know we don’t make money. We made tools with Blogger. Twitter we haven’t figured out. It’s not our content, it’s their content. We never really have considered ourselves in the editorial business.

Davidson: Ours is not a traditional editorial content site, but people can put RSS feeds on their sites. We can’t be free forever, however. Ours is a blend between personal information and feeds from content you find interesting.

Tatum: About gmail ads. I’m freaked out about contextual ads related to content that I’ve never mentioned.

Williams: The primary role of blogs and “Digg” sites is still filtering.

Snider: Digg is getting to be a popularity contents with top-ten lists, etc.

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