Scott Porad at Seattle Tech Startups on User Generated Content - May 2009


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  • Hello!My name is ScottPorad and I am the CTO at Pet Holdings, Inc. Pet Holdings is the company behind the hugely popular I Can Has Cheezburger? and A quick show of hands: Who is familiar with our sites? Is it part of anybody’s daily “coffee break” routine? Okay, last question: has anybody actually created a LOLcat or submitted a FAIL to Failblog?Well, if you’re not familiar with these sites, let me give you a quick introduction:
  • Before, I go on, let me take a minute to make sure everyone is familiar with this concept of crowdsourcing.James Suroweicki: Wisdom of the Crowds popularized this recently.If you have something like a jar of jellybeans and everybody is guessing the amount of what’s in it the average is going to be pretty close to the target.Now, with UGC it’s a little different: you don’t have a jelly bean contest, you have a funny joke contest. -- there is one joke that the audience will, on the whole , think is the funniest.But, you can’t average up all the jokes in the same way that you can jellybean guesses for two reasons: 1) it’s not a number, 2) And, more importantly, you don’t know the answer. I mean, there are people who have spent years honing their skills in an attempt to understand what audiences will like. For example, my friend John runs a record label, so his job is to figure out what bands he thinks people will like enough to buy records.But, ultimately, he’s just making an educated guess…and this is where the technology pushes UGC forward…
  • What’s happening is that we’re taking the guess work out of things. Not only are we doing “user generated” content, we’re also doing “user driven” content.So, going back to our joke contest, we need some mechanism that can assess whether or not a joke will be popular with the audience. If you have that, on average, according to the wisdom of the crowd, you will get much closer to a joke that is really funny to the audience. Now, think about that for a second: if you’re like me, that is, you’re in the business of telling people funny jokes, one picture or video at a time, then it really pays to be right on. The more jokes I have that are funny, then the happier my audience is. It’s easy to imagine how a happier audience leads to all sorts of good outcomes in a competitive marketplace.And, so this whole new thing that technology is making possible is transforming user-generated content into user-driven content. Not only are the users contributing it, but as a crowd they’re selecting it too. We’re moving from crowd-sourced to crowd-controlled! Now, let me give you a few awesome examples of this…
  • American Idol, or Rockstar (my favorite)ThreadlessJPG Mag
  • Product Reviews: AEA: everyone talking about Amazon review ratings – 2.7bNews: Digg and RedditMusic: Cherry BombFlaming Lips, Chicago, this summer, letting users vote on the playlist….and US
  • And so what Crowd-controlled content is doing is like knifepointing…getting right at the heart of the matter.Driving right to what the community wantsReally, really relevant.Almost zen like, or recursive.And, so in sum, this method of content creation results in that is higher quality and more relevant……and cheaper. The dirty secret is that we’re getting our audience to do the work of creating and editing content which results in a better product. And, I must say this: for those human nature reasons I mentioned earlier, they love doing it.It’s human nature to create in order to express oneself.And receiving it’s human nature want attention. It’s only a hop-skip-jump from attention to FAME.
  • Users create and submitBrain dead simpleEmail and SubmitterBasic BuilderAdvanced Builders…show examplesWe screenThen users vote and flagNot by popularity … that’s just a rich get richer thingSamplingWe reviewAnd we promote/broadcast
  • UGG = User Generated Garbage
  • I Can Has Cheezburger? is about LOLcatsWhat are LOLcats? -- a meme where an image is composed of a cat or cats with text placed over them. -- up on the screen here you see the eponymous lolcat from our site, happy cat…asking for a cheezburger. -- as you can see, the happy cat’s english isn’t perfect…if you were a cat your english wouldn’t be perfect either, or maybe it would…who knows…cats don’t really speak out loud. -- this language is known as lolspeak.Anyhow, ICHC -- our first site, launched in early 2007 -- we didn’t create the meme, but the site quickly grew to become the leading online destination for it -- and apparently lolcats make people really happy because lots of people seem to come to the site.
  • Next, we have Fail blog is about “FAILs”, basically things that just don’t quite go as plannedBasically, as long as there is one person on earth there will be FAILs, and as long as there are two people someone will laugh at it. So, I guess you could say that Failblog provides a place for human nature to scratch that itch, so to speak.Anyhow, going back to my earlier point, there’s a lot more than 2 people on earth, so we have lots and lots of fails. I don’t know the exact growth numbers—you can look them up on quantcast if you want—but we’ve definitely been enjoying the upward part of the hockey stick for the last year.Anyhow, that’s not all of our sites…
  • Beyond that we have the whole Cheezburger Network which is composed of about a dozen our so sites that are all centered around humor in one way or another:IHAH - LoldogsPK – lolnews and politiciansRR – lolcelebsAnd then…PIU and Photobomb…two of our newer sites that have grown out of Failblog that are really growing.And, what ties these all together…beyond that they’re all humor web sites, is that…
  • …all follow a user-generated content model: What this means is that for everyone one of these sites the users create and contribute the content, and then select the content that is displayed.Let me say it another way: The content is created by the audience as opposed to the broadcaster The broadcaster—that’s us—is just a delivery mechanism for the audience to deliver content back to itself A method of sourcing content from the ground up, as opposed from the top down Shifts the job of the broadcaster from creating content to filtering content created by others Obviously, this borrows a lot from concept of “crowdsourcing”So, as I mentioned earlier, we don’t create these memes…but we identify them, and using technology we facilitate and amplify them.
  • Okay, let’s take a step back:At a very high level, my point is this: every area of the media business is changing…this is obvious to even casual observers. They way content is sourced, created and distributed are all being disrupted right now.We all know that the internet is driving distribution costs down, but there’s a whole set of other tools that are driving content-creation down: Flip, Mac, iMovie, Wordpress, YouTubeAnd, in terms of sourcing: this concept of crowdsourcing is one of the ways that sourcing content is changin. In other words, beyond creating the content on the cheap, we can acquire (or aggregate) it for less as well.So, if you’re either a content creator or aggregator, you need to be paying attention to how user-generated content fits into your space. And you really have to ask yourself: how you’re sourcing and creating that content and how much it’s costing you...
  • But wait a second….Variety shows (Gong Show, That’s Incredible!)Letters to EditorMyTurn-NewsweekSubmissions to magazines – Michael, TricycleWhat are academic journals?Call-In Talk Radio
  • Americas funniest home videosAuthenticity is human nature … we want the real experience, not something phony. And, online UGC is just another version of this…
  • But, there’s a new generation being spurred on by the technology…effectively making a new and better mousetrap.So, with AFHV the home video camera was yet another step in that…sourcing or aggregating television content became cheaper…you sourced it from the audience.But, in every one of these examples, the decision about which content was broadcast back to the audience was in the hands of some relatively small group of editors who would decide what they thought was best for the audience.And, this is what’s really important…it’s how UGC is changing in content in a transformative way…just keep that point in mind for a second, because I’m going to come back to it…
  • Scott Porad at Seattle Tech Startups on User Generated Content - May 2009

    1. 1. User-Generated and User-Driven Content Scott Porad CTO, Pet Holdings, Inc. Twitter: @scottporad
    2. 2. I Can Has Cheezburger?
    3. 3.
    4. 4. The Cheezburger Network
    5. 5. UGC: User-Generated Content
    6. 6. Content: Sourced, Created, Distributed
    7. 7. This is Not New
    8. 8. America’s Funniest Home Videos
    9. 9. Not Death OR Taxes
    10. 10. Time Out: Crowdsourcing
    11. 11. UGC becomes “Crowd-Controlled”
    12. 12. “Knifepointing”
    13. 13. LOLBuilder
    14. 14. Basic Builder
    15. 15. Advanced Builders
    16. 16. Screening
    17. 17. Vote and Flag
    18. 18. On The Site
    19. 19. Moral of the Story Audience Creates: Not New, but Easier Audience Chooses: New and Transformative Create + Choose = Cheaper and Better
    20. 20. KTHXBAI! Scott Porad Pet Holdings, Inc. Cheezburger Technology Officer E-mail: Blog: Twitter: @scottporad