Consumer Generated Content

The spring of 2006 will go down as a curious moment in the annals of buzz. The mainstream-media steamroller caught up with a bona fide cultural phenomenon, then flattened it into aclich before the average person knew what all the fuss was about. That’s ironic, because the fuss was about the average person and their participation in what’s known variously as “social media,” “social networking” or “user-generated content.” (Here at Firewhite, we prefer the term “consumer-generated content” or CGC for short.)

Regardless of what you call it, it is clear that companies are changing the way they communicate, make decisions, and develop and market products, because of the exponential rise of new tools that allow people to express themselves easilyonline . “Social networking isn’t a product or, God forbid, a company, but a feature that lives in service of some other mission,” says Bradley Horowitz, Yahoo’s head of technology development. “The spirit of social computing is the concept of leaving value in your wake.” That value starts with expression. Users of social-networking sites are producing and freely sharing a whole universe of content for others to consume. Why watch fake “reality” shows when you can connect with actual reality? For media and Web-portal companies, the new social gadgets can look like a magic money machine. Rather than exhaust yourself producing what you *think* the kids might want, why not sit back and provide them a showcase for them to show off for one another?

Fast Company June 2006