I have been thinking about User Generated Content even more after my previous blog entry on the topic.
Googling further on the topic I saw an interesting study by Accenture on “User-Generated Content Is Top Threat to Media and Entertainment Industry”.
The study goes on say that such content will continue to grow and the user will gain:
* Increased power – As he can now create more content and hence can direct where a social network would grow. While the study did not examine Virtual Worlds – I would submit that a similar trend would be visible in this space too. With a far more impact being felt in such Virtual Worlds
* Increased control – The user can direct what kind of content can be published.
At this point I would aim to classify such UGC into two key categories
* Individual directed Content – This content is targeted to Avatar customizations, the way your avatar looks, dresses, walks, talks. Where are the areas that are visited, what kind of content is bought out and is used actively and also the social network of other Avatars he or she interacts with.
* Environment directed Content - This content is specifically targeted to creating the environments in which these Avatars interact in with regard to the Virtual Worlds. So whether it is a fancy art gallery or a pub or even a retail store of the future.
Different Virtual Worlds have taken different view points on the level of freedom that they give their Users with creating the above two types of content. While most Virtual Worlds give Users the chance to create Individual Oriented Content, many limit the amount content that can be Environment-directed.
One of my favourite Virtual World – Doppelganger’s vSide actually limits the amount of content that one can create from an Environment perspective.
Usually there is a cost associated with each of the types of content.
* So while Second Life requires you to have a Premium membership to buy land, you dont need one to create content whether Individual / Environment oriented.
* Doppelganger on the other hand requires you to buy individual content and has little or no flexibility with the customizations one can do from an environment based.
We see differing revenue models too.
* While Linden Labs (the creators of Second Life) have very limited custom content created by them other than the main archipelago they have a revenue model where they make money out of allowing people to create Environment oriented Content.
* Doppelganger on the other hand has a revenue model which is targeted specifically towards Individual based Content and makes money out of such sales and partnerships.
An older article by Robin Good says that “UGC is online content publishers most promising future” and I accept his thesis, however which sphere will lead to more revenues remains to be seen.
I conclude quoting from the Search Engine Roundtable :
“1) Users spend a lot of time in UGC (user generated content)
2) Consumers expect to be able to make their own content
3) Consumers trust user generated content
4) Product reviews increase sales
5) Increases conversions”
And hence UGC will become the key determining criteria for Virtual Worlds
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