One of the afternoon presenters at WordCamp San Francisco is Scott Porad of Pet Holdings, otherwise known as the LOLcat franchise whose sites get millions of visitors each day.
The focus of his talk is the network of sites that they run which all have the following in common: They’re all humor/entertainment-centric, they’re all hosted on WordPress.com, and they’re all based on user-generated and user-driven content.
(honorable mentions added to the list above include PIctureIsUnrelated.com and ThisIsPhotoBomb)
He talks about the evolving style of the internet, more specifically the way content is created, sourced, and distributed. “User-generated content is not new,” says Scott referencing The Gong Show, letters to the editor in news papers and call-in talk radio. He also mentions America’s Funniest Home Videos that was sourcing from the concept of home videos that were cost-effective and easily produced. With technology these days not only can people submit content but they can choose what gets pushed back to them (instead of editors or show producers selecting the content to publish from the submissions).
User-generated content becomes crowd-controlled. The internet takes educated guessing out of content — Porad gives an example of his friend who works at a record company who seeks out new talent, making “educated guesses” about what the populace might like or purchase. His next slide features the American Idol logo to drive that point home.
JPG Magazine is an example he uses of crowd-powered content, taking high-rated user-submitted photos and publishing them in a magazine. People will go tell their friends to purchase the magazine so they can showcase their work. Same goes for Threadless which does this with e-commerce. “UGC… user-generated content can easily turn into user-generated crap.” UGC is being sorted on websites ie. “was this review helpful, yes or no?” The community will tell you what they want.
Porad says a question he gets often is how long can the “free” model last — how long can you keep asking for free content from people. “It depends on the category you’re working in.” He said if you win a design contest on Threadless you get paid. “I think it’s human nature that people like to express themselves, we provide the tools to help people express themselves and tell funny jokes.” Porad says they provide an outlet for a certain element of human nature, people want to be that funny guy or girl. Also, everybody wants attention, “but I don’t think everybody wants to be Lebron James famous.” He compares that to being “internet famous” ie. the picture of your cat made it to the home page of I Can Has Cheezburger. “It’s a way to make people feel special.”
Scott then walks us through the submission feature on the LOLcats site, “the name of the game is – get as much as you can.” He also mentions that screening is important, but on the LOLcats site they just watch for language and nudity — humans approve images before they can be posted.
“Moral of the story” is… audience creates the content (it’s not new but it’s getting easier), audience chooses (which is new and transformative) and create + choose = better and more relevant.