Notes from a panel on user-generated content at at the 2006 Innovative Marketing Conference:
John Hiler, CEO of Xanga.net — When you turn something [a site] over to the community they may start doing something they consider to be good clean fun that’s actually against a federal law….in order to control this you must tap the wisdom of crowds, such as self-rating…you have to self-regulate or the government will come in from the top down and regulate you. In terms of making money, we’re not CEOs, we’re more like unelected politicians of little towns in cyberspace…in order to make money you need to manage your approval ratings, make your space a better community. If you can pull that off then the money will take care of itself.
Craig Newmark of Craigslist — Every day we have the issue of trust, since the internet is everyone’s printing press, a place where everyone can express opinions and launch disinformation campaigns…..and now we have this wisdom of crowds effect, and use lots of people working together being smart to help control the bad ones. It’s critical to be explicit about the environment that you’re providing (re ownership of the posted content) and then let people decide whether to participate or not. One way to make money is to charge people who are paying more for the same advertising elsewhere…the future of marketing may be customers participating in public discussions to get messages to companies.
Chris Tolles, VP of Marketing for Topix.net — Citizen journalism is the ability of the people to talk back to the news, which is what traditional news editors don’t want them to do…..you have to trust the community not to be evil all the time. He cited an example — during the Mohammed cartoon scandal, they got 50,000 comments, but the negativity was defused largely by adding to each post the requirement of including the name of the town where they were from, which seemed to work because people didn’t want to bring disgrace on their town…..In terms of making money, it’s critical to listen to the people in the community, not because it’s the “right” thing to do, but because it’s smart to do so.