Taking into account the 1% rule with user generated content

by oneafrikan on July 26, 2006

I’ve been talking to a client recently about user generated content, and I’ve been trying to get them away from seeing UGC as a silver bullet, encouraging them to get the basics right first while building a platform for UGC that will start to benefit them in 9 to 12 months time. Taking the long view is not easy when you need to deliver ROI, but it is pragmatic and less prone to white elephantitis.

With all the buzz around user generated content, MySpace and YouTube (check out PornoTube if that’s your bag as well), it’s probably worth considering that when you’re launching something public, and asking users to contriute so that your site will be successful, you need to factor in that although you may be getting mad traffic to your site, only a very small proportion of them are going to actually do anything other than just look.

In the old days when forums were all the rage, common legend was that you needed around 100k of traffic, to get 1k active participantion. So growing a forum was as much about generating traffic as it was about having content that motivated people to get stuck in.

Today things are no different, except that now there is more competition and users are more fickle… So you need to apply “crossing the chasm” thinking if you’re going to get your webapp / web site growing into more than either a passing fad or a boo.com – targeting vertical niches and providing value to them is a good way (case in point is what Digg has done with their new re-launch) to do that, and so is targeting niches and users that you know well. If you’re a developer or a business, creating a web 2.0 site around tailors is probably not a good idea unless you used to be a tailor – in other words, stick to your knitting!

The flip side of this is that even if you do stick to your knitting, you need to have huge traffic to make user generated content a worthwhile business opportunity – so looking into the future my hunch is that we’re not going to see a huge gamut of new sites and apps – we’re going to see large portals that have brand recognition, and then smaller niched players servicing vertical niches.

Which one are you, or are you trying to be? ‘cos I don’t think you can be both…

Anyways, just some thoughts that I wanted to be cathartic about ;-), inspired in part by Chris Campbell over at ParticleTree – “..If you can somehow tap in to the 1% of your builders effectively to create content 89% of your users want, you might be on to something.”

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