Notes from a panel with Stewart Butterfield (Flickr/Yahoo), Mike Iampietro (Adobe), Terence Swee (Muvee), Richard Ting (R/GA ad agency)

What trends are you seeing in the development of user-generated content?

Stewart: Just to make the panel more interesting I’ll start by disagreeing with the question. Personally I hate the phrase ‘user-generated content’ because it doesn’t accurately describe the activity of these people. When you’re in the media business you talk about content, with the idea that it fills up some vessel that you can then make money off of by selling advertising around it. To the people on these services it’s not about content it’s about participating in an activity.

To answer the question, we’re observing three trends on Flickr:
1) Ubiquity of capturing devices. People have cameras in their pockets all the time
2) Spread of the network. 10 years ago it was unusual to have internet, now it’s everywhere
3) Change in perception of what it means to participate in activities online. 10 years ago the public perception of the internet user was a creepy ugly fat man in the basement of his house. Today it’s considered normal and most people use online services including dating services for instance.

Terence: The Office TV show campaign. They posted short clips on YouTube, people voted which one gets shown on TV.

Role of DRM
Stewart: There’s a need to help the people on Flickr protect themselves from commercial exploitation. When there’s an invitation to have people submit their content it usually works pretty well. Nikon got 50,000 photos from Flickr users when it issued a campaign.

Terence: At Muvee we recognized we need to be on the same side with content owners like Warner Music. For example you can personalize your Madonna video. We can add value to premium content by allowing users to personalize it.

Do you have stories of people who’ve made an income from their content?
Terence: Wedding videographers use our software because it means you can have the church ceremony in the morning and show the video at lunchtime. Wedding videographers charge money for the ‘instant service’.

Richard: My New York friends Josh Rubin of Coolhunting and another friend who runs a sneaker blog called FreshnessMag. The blogs started as just something they were interested in and have evolved into businesses with advertising and services related to the topic they cover.

Stewart: We see this all the time on Flickr. A lot of people in the media business search for photos and contact the users when they want to purchase them. A friend of mine traveled in Southeast Asia and got contacted 25 times because he took such interesting photos. We hear about it maybe a dozen or two dozen times a day and it’s having a signigicant impact.

What’s the future for a company like Getty Images?
Stewart: Flickr’s pretty disruptive. Getty’s also active, they acquired iStockphoto a service where people can post photos and sell rights to use them commercially. Right now there are about 26 million photos on Flickr under the Creative Commons license. So there’s a growing body of photos available for free use and this is quite disruptive.

Richard: We have about 150 designers in our studio and they often download photos for use in non-commercial presentations. Before Flickr we used Getty and others, and Flickr’s just a lot better.

Question from the audience: Is there any business model for operators regarding Flickr on Nokia handsets?

Stewart: One of the reasons consumers like Flickr is because they get around having to pay MMS charges. There may be other business models that don’t require charging consumers directly.

Mike: Anything that encourages usage is revenue to the operators. Outside that there may not be much in the form of revenue share.

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