Steve Outing, a columnist for Editor & Publisher decided to talk about his failed company, the Enthusiast Group, which was an experiment in grassroots media and social networking, to teach the lessons he learned and to save others from the same failure he experienced.
The Enthusiast Group created websites based mainly on user generated content and social networks to serve people that were passionate about various sports, each sport having its own website with its own “enthusiast-in-chief,” or editor to blog, shoot video, and interact with contributors by commenting or answering questions. The enthusiast-in-chief provided the professional content on the site, but most content came from users.
The growth in traffic for the sites was slow and not enough to sustain the business. Outing says now that user-generated content is just not good enough, but it can be very useful and successful if leveraged in the correct way. He said that his business made the mistake of relying too heavily on UGC and if he could go back he would have hired more athletes or adventurers to contribute to the site because quality is what really attracts the audience.
Outing explains that there are whole magazines dedicated to various sports and activities that are full of professional content, so people may just go there for their information if the content is not good enough on sites such as his. He said that he received some amazing content from users, just not enough.
His message is that UCG needs to be leveraged appropriately. He says that sites that put citizen contributions off to the side on a separate web page are doing it wrong because very few people will go there when all the professional content is right in front of them. He says the best way to leverage citizen contributions is for editors to go through them and chose the best contributions and mix them in with the professional content.
He says for hyperlocal content, micro-tagging citizen contributions is a good approach. Customizable widgets can than be created and included on other sites, like that of community bloggers, which will drive traffic back to the original site.
To sum it up, Outing is a big enthusiast of citizen contributions, but is just not convinced that a successful website can run simply on user generated content.
Source: Editor & Publisher