Gary Carter ©Gary HayesFollowing on from a couple of posts ago on the theme of how we are going to find stuff in the sea of content, one of the other overriding themes of Milia (and the Mip market) was that of the deluge of viewer created content coming over the horizon. Every panel talked about or referred in passing to vlogs, video, audio and picture messaging, mash-ups, good and bad short films, citizen journalism and so on. Some panels took it very seriously, others (mostly the older execs) talked about it being a superficial, fringe activity and unlikely to affect their business (we won’t see them around for long then).

A couple of keynotes and panels addressed the issues head on. Gary Carter, Chief Creative Officer for FreemantleMedia gave a slightly irreverent but highly witty, surprisingly educational keynote/lecture (refering to sociohistorical tech, comparing with Orson Welles and a handful of philosophers) on the wonderful, cross-platform, democratised future we are all entering into. Called “Whose TV is it anyway? his intro poked fun at the ‘death-of…” brigade – (parts sounded similar to one of my rants in the EPIC post on the same issue some months ago).

“these days, when I turn on the television, when I listen to the radio, when I listen to the radio on the web, when I watch the news on the web, when I read the newspaper, when I read the newspaper on the internet, when I read my email alerts on my blackberry, my rss feeds, when I click on google, when I listen to a podcast on my iPod, I hear and see the following messages…reality television is dead, 30 second commercials are dead, broadcasters are dead, old business models are dead, schedules are dead, tv is dead, everybody is dead except iTunes (audience laughs)…and except technologies companies, who are the new broadcasters, and brands who are also the new broadcasters, content is king and of course gameshows, gameshows are back”

His talk whose title was loosely based around the stage play “whose death is it anyway” gave a tantilising glimpse on where Freemantle particularly will be putting many of their eggs in the future…another quip “if TV is going to die, to paraphrase Joey from Friends, how will we know which way to face out furniture”.

More seriously he tried to work out what exactly we mean by the death of television and how statements like this are a nonsense misnoma. “Do we mean the device or the form…if we look at the history of mass communication technology we can learn some interesting lessons…the only mass communication technology in history ever to be replaced was the telegraph, and it can be argued that that was not mass communication”. He then got into the over used term UGC –

“We don’t own creativity. Now that audiences have the same tools as us, its only natural they want to do what we do. My advice is this” before you issue a writ, just remember that copyright was initially introduced to stimulate creativity”.

Simon Assaad ©Gary HayesMore from Gary at the end but this leads into a specific panel (not the BBC 360 content pitch on UGC) but one moderated by the transformational Brian Seth Hurst. His panel (which included David Jensen) hit upon the same themes as Gary Carter but talked more about the practicalities of engaging with the social network, getting viewer trust and some of the rights mechanics of UGC. The Panel User Generated Content: The Next Big Thing in Media? Had Simon Assaad (, Andy Grumbridge (Channel 4 UK),, Alex Kummerman, (Clicmobile France), Phil Jones (Extreme Sports – perhaps the first user generated brand) and David Jensen with his 12th Street Jam, Yahoo! hat on.

Simon announced like David Jensen that they will be launching a video rich upload area of the service, in this case ‘myheavy, in June of this year.

“the ecosystem of community and user generated content, is something that involves users, platforms, editorial outlets and it also involves advertisers, that really helps make the whole thing run – from our point of view we are trying to put something in the hands of users that no only gives them a way to get noticed because the currency of user generated and community is really attention. – that’s really our job to facilitate how can they get attention and then leverage that into something else – getting paid, new job, another career, people looking at them and getting credibility in their peer group”

Andy Brumbridge ©Gary HayesAndy from Channel 4 of course talked about the relationship they have with their audience through such initiatives as 4 docs and Slash music. He didn’t really throw any nuggets of wisdom into the pot but simply that they found it quite easy to ‘set-up’ the scenario’s, make it easy for anyone to take part and present the output in a compelling way and the users will follow.

David Jensen’s offering was more in the self-help, transformation space through shared story domain – he said there are comedy propositions which he didn’t show. The ‘Principles’, aims to work in communities using video arts techniques to help people document their lives. He played the trailer, which possibly was the Yahoo! pitch? Here is an excerpt…

“I want to hear your story and I want to tell you mine. You could give it a fancy name like social networks or something but really it is just our basic need to communicate, connect and identify with one another. We tell stories at 12th street Jam and we use technology so that after you hear our story you can share your own, discover yourself…Principles are based on Patrick Moore’s self discovery book of the same name. Patrick believes in the principles of 12 step recovery to address their day to day problems, the key is to do it with another person…the first principle is surrender, in other words, giving it up…”

The panel talked about the perennial issues of moderation, quality and filtering, making the users think it is their brand and rights/money issues. I asked the panel in a web world of hundreds of portals asking for user content for their top three tips to engage and get video contributions…David Jensen replied

David Jensen ©Gary Hayes“In the case of 12th St Jam and in relation to some of the data Yahoo! shared with us is the need or desire for users to bring life around the stories and not just through text and graphics. That is one of the most compelling reasons. I also think that when someone quoted that 99.99% of the content may not be usable but for certain select audiences I think it is very powerful and very usable and very inspiring. A lot of this content is from a youthful demographic and they have grown up with this technology and they want to own it and they are going to respond back to it. But even broader and niche groups who you think may not want to respond, at first they participate and then maybe eventually they will respond to contribute video stories. We need to think about building a broader demographic around UGC”

Alex from Clicmobile added “I think one of the dynamics of UGC comes from this idea of social networking. One of the first really strong things of social networking is to first build your profile, say who you are. The second thing is to build a buddy list with whom you will exchange information and be visible with your friends. The third step when you are visible, a small star among your friends then you continue the process and build content.”

Finally back to Gary Carter trying to get a handle, a term on what professional producers actually do in this world and after a few jokey false starts ended up with “to acquire and/or develop popular entertainment with audiences in an altered context.” Some final portentous words that sum up why the power is now in the hands of the audience –

“The reason were all struggling to identify new business models is because the audience hasn’t told us what they are yet. TV will continue to grow, but we need to rid ourselves of past expectations of what that means”

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006