The term user-generated content (UGC) refers to various types of media content created and uploaded by users of a website or online service. The terms consumer-generated media (CGM) and conversational media are used synonymously for user generated content.
In the early days of the Internet, providing a website as an infrastructure and creating the media content for it was both handled by the operator. The operator was in most cases also the publisher. Static websites were common and their content changed only slightly. The type of communication prevalent in Web 1.0 could be described as one-to-many communication. The publisher talkED to a target group without any feedback.
Although many websites already had forums in which users were able to comment on a variety of topics and Wikipedia users were also able to contribute to the creation of the content, this usually happened in a non-commercial context. With the development of Web 2.0 and especially the Social Web these aspects changed fundamentally. Online service providers had to finance their infrastructure in some way.
With the advent of websites such as YouTube, Facebook, or MySpace, user-generated content was linked to a business model that made the dynamics of many-to-many communication the measure of things. Each user could now actively participate in the creation of media content. User-generated content is now viewed as an important part of the value chain of companies, without putting the social, participative aspects of content creation into the background. UGC is a model that has had a serious social, cultural, and economic impact on both users and publishers.
Three criteria for user-generated content are usually listed:
These criteria result in different types of user-generated content, which are distributed on corresponding online platforms. The type of content does not necessarily have to be linked to the platform. Rather, on some platforms, it is possible to aggregate and distribute different types of media content.
Various legal aspects must be taken into account with user-generated content. They may be protected by copyrights, personality and data protection rights. On the other hand, however, infringements of rights which affect these three rights and trademark rights may also occur. In such cases, the platform operators or the admins of the forums or groups who have made this content their own will be faced with legal proceedings.
Platform operators are advised to protect themselves by various measures against liability. For example, by warnings, usage rules, automatic filters or a special licensing model such as that of CC (Creative Commons). Copyrights also affect aspects such as level of creation. It is often questionable when user-generated content reaches a creative level. Since, for example, a comment in a forum or a post in a group at Facebook are generally considered UGC as well.
User generated content solved the paradigm of static HTML websites and included users as prosumers in the creative process. As an interactive model, not only individual participants are involved in the aggregation and creation of the content, but entire user groups, i.e. a crowd. Monetizing the generated content is often done using internet advertising. Portals such as YouTube and Facebook had very high user numbers in their early days, but also high costs for the provision of the infrastructure. To be able to finance it by advertising alone depends on the size of the crowd and thus reach. UGC models are therefore often profitable only from a certain point onwards.
A company based on UGC as a business model will affect different key factors in online marketing, such as traffic, length of stay, and conversion rate. UGC can therefore be considered as a means to increase the KPIs in a specific way. However, not all users are always active users, which is why the social capital is decisive for business success. In addition, user-generated content is used as part of modern branding to strengthen identification with the company. Campaigns such as “broke up” from T-Mobile or “Legoxbelkin” by Lego and Belkin illustrate this.