Media: Russell Davies

For the past couple of years it's been impossible to open a trade journal without being flooded with leaflets for conferences promising to reveal the secrets of Consumer Generated Content. How to harness it strategically, manage it effectively or simply worry about it in a slightly more informed manner.

CGC promises to fall somewhere between the Holy Grail and manna from heaven in the desirability stakes. The punters make their own ads, so they're bound to like them. And they cost nothing. And obviously they're going to be consumer-relevant. How can it go wrong? Just one thing. Not many consumers are going to be bothered to make content for you. There are very few doing it now, when it's new and novel, so when every brand in every supermarket features an ad-making competition, the chances of any one brand getting anything decent are very, very slim.

And, speaking as someone who's created the odd bit of digital content, I'm very clear why I'm doing it, for myself, my family and my friends, not for any brands. There are occasions when a brand might inspire me to do something, or might host something I've done, but not often.

Consumer Edited Content is a better description of what most regular folk usefully do online; they point at the good stuff. They take the streams of garbage out there, from real people or mainstream media, and they help us sieve through it for the nuggets. They do it with tags, blogs or e-mail, or simply by allowing their own behaviour to be logged and shared through services like last.fm. And, most interestingly, we're not far from seeing that phenomenon impact on the way we watch television.

The Big Brother racism imbroglio was a form of Consumer Edited Content, it was the complaints and outrage of viewers (with digitally enhanced complaining technology such as e-mail and blogging) which led the charge, not the professional opinion-formers. But if you thought that the storm was quick, global and loud, wait until Joost has ten million users.

Joost.com is a new online/TV hybrid with all sorts of clever technology, that adds social and community technologies to TV/video viewing, allowing viewers to talk about programmes, point at the good ones and the bad ones and create their own channels, all in the same space. Channel 4 was palpably rubbish at reacting to the media storm it created with regular TV, but will you be any better when your ad or your content gets talked about and edited out in a live, distributed context like Joost?

russell.davies@russelldavies.com.

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