Large media companies are moving away from paying in-house staff to create proprietary online content and favoring two lower-cost models for content creation — user-generated content (UGC) and crowdsourcing-generated content (CGC). Since these two approaches are often confused with each other, it’s worth looking more closely at the real differences between them.
UGC is just that: ancillary content (ratings, reviews, etc.) provided free of charge to content-driven sites by users. CGC is where paid crowd workers create the core information product itself. [When users supply content for free through user polls, contests, etc., this is often described as crowdsourced. It’s more accurately called UGC.]
So which approach is “better”? Well, they each have their benefits and drawbacks.
UGC appears to be “free,” but it carries substantial costs for curation via filters, editors, and/or moderators because:
- Users exaggerate or are simply dishonest
- People are more apt to write about negative experiences than positive ones
- Users often violate copyright laws
Well-known commercial examples of UGC include:
- Yelp, where users post their experiences and opinions about retail stores, services, and restaurants.
- Local news sites where citizens with mobile phones post photos of a local events for republication.
- LinkedIn, where users write content about themselves that often reflects only their positive qualities.
CGC is often cheaper than in-house content creation, but its costs are often wildly underestimated. Some of these costs include:
- Highly specialized training and credentialing before a project starts
- Sub-routines to ensure consistent quality (i.e., editorial/QA reviews)
- Moderators to prevent dissemination of inappropriate content
- Software to prevent “gaming the system” in various ways
- An experienced crowdsourcing manager to design processes and to train and qualify a group of crowd workers exactly suited for the specific task at hand.
The choice between the potentially unwieldy crowd or amateur user-generated content can be tricky. One thing’s for sure, though. Content creation still requires managers who can handle complex information processes, even if the content’s provenance is out-of-house.