Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 27, 200710:41 PM

User Generated Content, The Police And The Message Is Out Of The Bottle

I was semi-hesitant to buy tickets to see The Police reunion concert in Montreal this past Wednesday night. I know their music but was never a huge fan of the band (save for that moment when Synchronicity was released). I also have a bad taste in my mouth for these classic rock bands reuniting, doing summer tours around their hits and charging steep ticket prices.

All that being said, I bought a ticket to see the show, and it was awesome. While this Blog posting is not a concert review for The Police, I had a huge Digital Marketing "a-ha" moment at the show. You're probably more than tired of the whole User Generated Content discussion. Big deal, your average consumer can also now create and change content. Isn't it getting old? As Marketers, we sometimes get caught up in the game. Talk of the Podcasting Echo Chamber or how we're all just sitting around the Social Media campfire and drinking the Kool-Aid has grown tiresome, but have you ever really seen a consumer generate content live before your eyes? I did tonight at The Police concert, and it really blew my mind.

There's got to be some kind of irony that it happened during The Police's performance of 'Message In A Bottle'. Being a former music journalist, there are always moments of levity when a huge hit is being played live and you cast your eyes on members of the audience. You can really feel how deep the soundtrack to our lives can be for some. With a song like 'Message In A Bottle', you can feel how it strikes a chord, but I was shocked. Everywhere I looked people were either taking pictures of the band with their mobile devices, grabbing video captures with phones, digital cameras and pocket DVs, digital cameras were firing away and I even saw a handful of people just holding out their mobile devices into the air - either recording the tune to their voice mail or having called a friend to let them hear the classic tune. I'm quite certain I even caught a glimpse of someone doing an audio grab with what looked like an M-Audio MicroTrack.

When I got home, I did a quick YouTube search and, sure enough, bootleg video footage had already found its way online.
User Generated Content_ the message is definitely out of the bottle, but seeing the types of people that were creating this content also drove home that everyone is doing it. They're doing it to share, but more importantly, I think they're doing it because it has become easy and simple to document everything in their lives, so why not do it?

It also made me realize that a new level of User Generated Content is just around the corner. When I met the people from Heavy.com many months back, they described their content to me as SPUG - Semi Professional User Generated - meaning the people who are creating their content are not professionals. The producers of Heavy.com come up with the ideas and find amateur hobbyists (and pay them or revenue share - hence, semi-professional). The next level of content creation will look like this. As the first generation of content creators get better equipment or more sophisticated skills, the lines between what we see when someone grabs a video clip on their mobile device of Beyonce falling down during a live performance and a well-crafted 60 Minutes expose will blur.

So, why is there so much User Generated Content? The answer is simple: because they can. Content creation from the User's perspective is no longer an option. It's a right_ even if Sting and the boys made a rule about no photography or recording of their performance.

By Mitch Joel


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