There is a new player in the UGC field: The User-Generated Content Database (ugcDb), which expects to become the "Who's Who" of the UGC world. As the name hints, this site has a pretty similar structure to that of IMDB.com, with the distinction that they focus on the content creators and the community around them. Although they're still in beta, ugcDb already has close to 1,000 creator profiles.
In a time when mainstream media and advertising are constantly trying to find a way to take advantage of the passion behind UGC, and when many amateur creators are hoping to use UGC as a stepping-stone toward a more profitable production model, creating a clear-cut definition of UGC is not an easy thing.
Arte Merrit, founder of ugcDb, explains that, even for them, these are tough calls to make. They "consider user-generated-content to be content created specifically for Internet distribution by non-'mainstream media' sources/productions."
He further comments, "In some cases, you have teams that are producing content for sites that are backed by mainstream media sources - like Turner's SuperDeluxe.com - the content creators may have initially created videos for YouTube or their own personal sites and now have deals to create content to be distributed through these other sites - and, in some cases, they have additional production help from these companies. Is that still user-generated content? For now we still consider it UGC as they have their roots in UGC, the teams still have control over the content they're creating, they're producing it specifically for Internet distribution, and, although some may be getting some form of payment or help, it's not on the same level as that of mainstream media distribution."
Although anyone can upload information, ugcDb reviews new submissions and screens all edits. Although labor intensive, this process may help maintain the integrity of the site, allowing it to be an honest depiction of the UGC sphere. This sort of authenticity is bound to generate loyalty from the UGC communities and that loyalty is what could help ugcDb really become the UGC "Who's Who."
When I interviewed Merrit, he made some interesting points affirming that UGC is in itself an industry, explaining that "the combination of content creators, distribution platforms, and tools and services to create, distribute, and consume the content all make up the industry." But he finished by saying that "although many [content creators] would probably like to make money, they're doing this because it's something they enjoy doing and are passionate about it - they derive other forms of satisfaction from the experience."
The idea of content creators being the base of an industry from which they don't profit doesn't satisfy me. Another way to look at it is to see the creators as consumers, who, in being able to use these platforms, are receiving a service. I'm not sure I am persuaded by that description of the industry, either. The fact is that we still haven't fully understood the value chain behind UGC, its full impact or potential.
The Convergence Culture Consortium (C3) is no stranger to issues surrounding user-generated content (UGC), in the past, our prolific Project Manager, Sam Ford, has written on some examples of this, which can be found here, here, and on here. I'm sure that in the future we'll continue addressing these issues as we try to make sense of the constant changes in the media landscape.