I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the term “user generated content” but I’ve never been entirely sure why. I think I now know. It hit me reading the Pew Internet Home Broadband Adoption 2006 report, which contains this line:
And 48 million Americans — mostly those with high-speed at home — have posted content to the internet.
What an odd way to say it. The problem is in that word “content”. Is someone who answers a question on Yahoo! Answers aware of “posting content”? Is someone who reviews a book on Amazon? Or comments on a message board or a blog? Or uploads their details to MySpace because they’d like a date? All these are “uploading content”.
But by calling it content we reveal our own history, that of a media space where “content is king” and the big kids on the block are movie studios and magazine publishers and national broadcasters. They produce “content”. But this new stuff isn’t content. Call it conversation or communication. But posting a question on Yahoo! Answers is a lot more like sending an email than like writing a magazine article. How about “user voices” instead of “user generated content”?
Look Ma! I just posted some content!