A look at some businesses working to develop consistently good content that won't scare off advertisers.
Last month, eMarketer projected the number of user-generated content (UGC) creators will rise from 77 million in 2007 to 108 million in 2012 and consumption will climb from 94 million to 130 million.
But while the creation and consumption of UGC are estimated to increase by similar proportions, an eMarketer analyst said: "Advertising revenues against user-generated content are modest...and they are expected to stay that way for some time."
What's the culprit? In quoting author Andrew Keen, "Newsweek" throws us the obvious: "Nobody wants to advertise next to crap."
I'm more optimistic about the relationship between UGC video and advertisers, albeit with caveats. Yes, the majority of one-hit-wonder user-generated videos are total "crap." And yes, it's not worth supporting content creators who are one-trick ponies. However, over the last couple of years, this user-generated video generation has grown up. With age comes wisdom. Not only around creating consistently good content but also in how to develop a sustainable, engaged audience base.
I'd also challenge the true definition of UGC. The evolution of this genre is changing the definition. The UGC generation is fast becoming the new content creators.
In addition, the online video content industry is starting to mobilize. Rising stars and online content creators are getting production and distribution support from emerging digital studios and networks. Advertisers are now, more than ever, in a place where they can influence and shape that content and the distribution plan.
This number of new digital studios and networks is growing every day. And over the next several weeks, I'll profile some of the more established or most intriguing digital studios and networks in the space.
To start, here are a couple companies I'm most excited about, as well as a brief description of what differentiates each:
If there's one person who's truly a mover and shaker in the digital content space, it's Dina Kaplan. Not only because she is the cofounder of Blip.tv, but also because she's a connector. Ask any independent vlogger or show creator out there who they use to host and distribute their content, and Blip.tv's name is sure to come up.
Aside from creating a platform for independent shows, Dina also works closely with new and emerging talent to develop new shows and to line up advertising partners for them. And Blip can also access its talent base to help refine content show ideas (or create entire new shows!) for advertisers and their brands.
The quality of Blip.tv's vlog and show content is above average. And you won't find yourself sorting through the sludge of cat videos and risqué content you find on some of the bigger video portals, like YouTube.
Next New Network describes itself as "a new kind of media company creating micro-television networks over the Internet for targeted communities, bringing together elements of TV programming and Internet philosophy to allow viewers to contribute, share, and distribute content." Its goal? To "be of the communities, as each network is populated by key creative people of the audiences they serve."
Fred Seibert, whom I've had the pleasure to meet and work with, really has a lot of heart for the up-and-coming online content creators. When asked once what his philosophy is when it comes to uncovering new online talent, he replied, "I'm usually their biggest fan!"
As a creative director and cofounder of Next New Networks, his passion really comes across, not just in supporting and funding the great work emerging in the space but also by making sure advertising integration works for the content and the audience, as much as for the brand.
While the genre of content creators he supports and distributes content for somewhat overlaps with Blip.tv, his company really stands out in animated series. If you haven't already seen the viral hit "internet people," take a look at Channel Frederator's The Meth Minute and peek around.
Vimby, which stands for "Video in My Back Yard," really captures the spirit of the video content being created for this site.
At its core, it operates in the same manner as the digital studio mindset of Next New Networks. However, its mission -- "to capture young lifestyle and culture all over the nation" and connect "young people to others in their backyard who share their passions" -- really makes this business stand out.
With channels structured under categories like "nightlife," "music," "actions sports," and "cars," Vimby empowers an ever-growing pool of talented young filmmakers to submit local stories they are passionate about.
In addition to paying young rising talent for content, Vimby also works closely with each filmmaker "to improve their skill set and prepare them for video production in the new digital space." It's an offering that seems to be really paying off, as the quality is really top notch and continues to improve.
On sites like YouTube, where the current advertising solution is the occasional random placement of overlay ads on content, I'm really rooting for these new digital studios and networks to succeed. And I hope to see Vimby, and the companies that support the upstream marriage of brand and content, continue to excel in the online space.
Then by 2012, the so-called UGC -- at least when it comes to video creation -- just might have a much more promising future.
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As vice president, group creative director of Digitas's brand content group, The Third Act, Christine works across all brand teams to lead the creative innovation of motion media content. She has a unique and varied set of skills that weaves media, tech, and channel smarts to inform deep interactive experiences for clients such as American Express, Samsung, and IHG. At the advent of the digital revolution, she established Digitas' Final Cut Pro media lab and has since scaled it across offices.
Christine has a BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art in New York City, where she focused her studies on motion media, interactive design, and photography. Her work in the industry has contributed to top honors including silver and bronze Cyber Lions, a Caples Award, an OMMA Award, New York Festivals Awards, ECHO Awards, and The One Show Awards.
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