Progress for SignOnSanDiego

Building on the success of AmplifySD radio, launched a new online radio station during the wild fires.

Here’s what Ron James, content manager, told me about it:

SignOn radio has proven to be a powerful new channel to reach a group in a way that newspaper sites couldn’t do. During the first week we had over 60,000 streams from around the world and callers from as far away as Australia, Guam, Sweden, Germany and England. We found callers helping other callers, some who were in other states who had friends and information we couldn’t have gathered as a news organization. The radio also provided a very human and personal way to reach a new audience.

During the biggest regional story in a decade or more, SOSD also launched a home page redesign that follows many of the best practices being established by many other newspaper sites. It’s nothing ground breaking, but a big improvement over the previous page, which I found cluttered, and they’re definitely doing many things right.

SOSD’s fire coverage has been outstanding. The new design has helped there, a lot. If you click through to other sections, however, you’ll see the rest of the site hasn’t been changed. Ron says they started the redesign three weeks before the fire with no plans to launch it so quickly. The rest of the site probably won’t change until a new CMS is in place.

The myth of the UGC fad

Scott Karp tackles “the myth of UGC.”

The reality is that “average people”? don’t create a lot of content — at least not the commercially viable kind. Most people are too busy. Those that do “create content” — and who do it well — are those who are predisposed to being content creators. The have some relevant skills, training, raw talent, motivation, something.

“User-generated content”? sites like YouTube are much less a platform for armies of average people to create mountains of content and much more a platform for real talent to be discovered.

I think this is far too complex and nuanced a subject to generalize into “the myth of UGC.”

I long ago realized that YouTube was a great outlet for aspiring media producers. I found there a community of people with aspirations to audience and discovery. They were developing either segmented productions or mini-documentaries.

I also saw a lot of conversational video (there are people who seem to do nothing but record video responses) and random bits of cheaply and hastily produce video, some of it entertaining, most of it horrible.

There’s more going on at YouTube than obvious assumptions reveal — more than aspiring professionals, more than random UGC, more than stolen content, more than viral productions — it’s more stone soup than Cesar salad.

And there is a whole community of video and audio content producers, let alone bloggers, who operate outside of YouTube or other aggregation platforms.

The motivations for why people do what they do are as diverse as the human psych and vagaries of natural talent. There are people who can produce slick video with no aspirations to quit their day jobs, and people devoid of charm and wit who think they might become the next Jon Stewart.

Then there are people who amuse themselves cruising around the net dropping their insights and opinions where they seem to fit, and they would not think of themselves as content producers at all.
There is a myth that publishers think of UGC as something they can get for cheap/free to replace/supplement staff-derived content, but I’ve never met one of those publishers (and I’ve met dozens and dozens).

We are developing a “ugc platform,” but we call it that not because we’ve bought into some UGC myth, but because we believe in the democratization of digital media, the lower barriers to entry, the idea that good stuff can come from anywhere, that community engagement is a win-win for society and our business, and because if we don’t, somebody else will.

There is tendency among some pundits to speculate whether YouTube or Facebook or MySpace are just fads.

While it’s possible that any one of those sites might blow up under the weight of trendy backlash, by concentrating on the spikes in popularity, or hipness of particular brands, critics miss the fundamental truth that for the past four decades of digital history, networked communication consistently gravitates toward community, collaboration and communication.

Communities of the moment (the Well, CompuServ, AOL) come and go, but the conversation endures.

That’s why I think wedding community and conversation tools to established media brands, such as our small community newspapers, is a long-term EV+ bet. The UGC/community tools mesh with what people clearly want, and the established brands lend stability and trust.

It’s really a rather obvious thing to do.