On November 16, 2011 VCCircle had organized an event “VCCircle Digital Content & Investment Forum 2011” in Bangalore. I was asked to moderation a session on User Generated Content. The panelists were,
User Generated Content In India: Its Evolution & Opportunities
- What are the kinds of user generated content consumed in India?
- What are its monetization challenges, be dominated by advertising, or will new models emerge?
- What are challenges in the discovery of user generated content?
- What kind of content will work in terms of genre? How is the segment developing in areas related to local languages and regional content?
This was the first time I had ever moderated a session. I will summarize the points that I had prepared for the session,
In simple terms content that is generated by end users, translates to ‘free content’. Some best examples of UGC are Wikipedia, Blogs (rarely updated), bookmarking sites like reddit, digg.
- Current flavour of internet amongst VCs – ecommerce & ecommerceUGC ecommerce has arrived. We have sites where you can pick user generated designs for your T-shirts.
- User uploaded content: flickr, youtube, alomy – author uploads his work for others to consume
- User provided content: P2P, BitTorrent – I call this piracy.
- Most consumed UGC in around TV shows, movies and cricket.
- Education, travel & personal finance doing well in UGC.
- None in India are at the scale of Slashdot, Digg, Reddit. Is there an opportunity?
- Usually people are happy to contribute UNTIL you become big. Huffingtonpost is the best example, there was controversy of some authors demanding money after the sale.
Why is UGC needed?
Scale is important. UGC is one way to scale but I don’t think quality UGC exists in India ‘yet’. By having UGC you get to see different points of view instead the monotonous views written by the same set of authors (you can predict what he will write tomorrow).
UGC also helps you to bring the much needed differentiation to your site.
Usage of Wiki and editing of Wiki can be a barometer of “serious’ content usage in India. Wiki doesn’t make money, hence Indians are ready to contribute to Wiki.
Consumption of content is bound to increase – thanks to mobile devices (including tablets). I don’t think 3G has helped yet, more of hype.
Points discussed during the session,
- Are there any legal issues involved with accepting UGC?
- Are brands comfortable in advertising on UGC sites?
- Education, cricket, movie, travel sites are popular in the UGC sector.
- Discovery is not a big issue in English, but a serious issue in languages. So how will language UGC ever be discovered by users?
- Does social media – Facebook, Twitter help in discovering UGC?
- Can search engines come up with a policy for UGC?
Status of UGC in India
Many content based portals claim they have a huge percentage of UGC because it helps in increasing their valuation. That is a bad idea. At Oneindia.in, we do have UGC (which is “free”, we don’t pay) but by no means it is a huge percentage. If one wants quality content, I think we need to pay (however small or big).
There is no point in having a lot of UGC on your site if it isn’t quality stuff.
Voting, feedback too are considered UGC. Classified sites too can be considered as UGC as the content is from the end user. While Facebook is the best example of a UGC site (valued at $100 billion!) we should limit ourselves to Indian sites with UGC.
Few reasons for UGC not being where it should be in India,
- Nobody wants to contribute content for free.
- People may give contribute for free but when the portal becomes rich you are expected to reward those writers (rightfully so – see Huffington Post’s saga whine & case dropped)
- People who can write well now would prefer to blog for themselves and build a ‘personal brand’.
- We are more of a ‘reading than writing’ community. Nothing wrong, that is our nature and it is slowly changing.