I have wrung my hands here, repeatedly in fact, over whether I’m adding value to the conversation.
Yes, says Umair Haque and his colleagues at Havas Media Lab. They’ve put out a paper called “The New Economics of Consumption: User Generated Context.” In it, they argue that user-generated content is in short supply, but what the market has lots of is user-generated context. Huh?
Take Content Ninja’s blog. A lot of what I offer here is my riff on the stuff I read in my feeds — good points made by bright minds in the field and then I analyze and expand (or try to) on them. What I’m doing is adding context to someone else’s content.
Haque et al. suggest that media’s future lies not in figuring out how to get user-generated content and use it for little or nothing. The key is to put content out there that generates a contextual discussion. That discussion is important for two reasons: 1) It’s proof that your content is of value to users, and 2) the value of the context comes not from individual users but from the collective discussion.
“A naked rating, ranking, or review on its own has little value or meaning – but millions of them, in
the aggregate, weave complex and multilayered webs of meaning. Put another way, context is the result of the complex, multilevel, network effects that happen when millions of consumers connect,” they write.
And the context is specific to a community or network. Outsiders won’t get it. Think of it as a circle. Give the community content of value to members, and they’ll want to provide context of value to the community.
The white paper goes on to discuss how this viewpoint can be used to change the way advertising, business models and media strategy are done. How that works is less clear to me, but I’m sure Haque and his folks will have more to say.