January 18, 2007
"15 Seconds" of Fame Meaningful Use of User-Generated Content or "A Load of Crap"?

Will CBS' new initiative with YouTube get its 15 minutes of fame? The joint project, called "15 Seconds," asks users to submit 15-second inspirational clips into a contest in which the best videos will be shown on the CS broadcast networks throughout the season, with one to air on the network each quarter, probably as a commercial bumper leading back into a show or something of the sort.

The new plan got major press after it was mentioned by CBS President and CEO Les Moonves earlier this month at CES in Las Vegas and the first viewer video is set to air on Feb. 4, Super Bowl Sunday. With just one video per quarter picked to air on the network, the project is just a minor way to encourage the incorporation of user-generated content into the everyday presentation of CBS and provides a contest for YouTubers to get their work in front of a massive national broadcast audience.

In addition, other top videos will air on CBS.com every two weeks, providing cross-platform distribution of the winning YouTube videos. And the top videos from the CBS.com selections may make it up to the network, as MarketingVOX points out.

The project was originally announced late last year, spread through the blogosphere via a YouTube of Craig Ferguson announcing the contest to his audience.

Jeff Jarvis, for instance, compliments the project for creating a tag to make all the videos in the contest easily searchable while also criticizing the 15-second time limit, finding a similar BBC contest received better submissions just because more meaningful messages could be constructed in even a slightly extended time frame. Meanwhile, Steve Garfield calls the contest "a step in the right direction."

Not surprisingly, various organizations see the contest as their chance to get the word out, such as this message to members of the Global Youth climate Movement on "It's Getting Hot in Here": "This is a wonderful opportunity to tell the world your thoughts on climate change."

Meanwhile, Steve Bryant jokes that YouTube is trying to be turned into an after school special, while pointing to some of his favorite contest entries thus far. And, as the folks at

Adam Finley at TV Squad calls the contest "a load of crap" (particularly because of a YouTube block on profanity), while George Parker at AdScam/The Horror! writes, "Am I the only person in the fucking universe that thinks this whole CGC (Consumer Generated Crap) is starting to get out of control?" The backlash against a flood of what these people see as pointless user-generated content is highlighted by George and several others commenting on his site.

So which is it? Is "15 Seconds" opportunistic prostitution of the concept of user-generated content, extending the concept to the point that people will be sick of anything generated from viewers themselves? Or is it an inventive way to tap the creative resources of the American public? Is it a chance for activists to have their voices heard, or is it more a platform for short comedy sketches? I think the whole concept could border on being asinine but might be saved by some particularly inventive "15 Seconds" entries.

But what do you think?