User-generated content challenges traditional media: ad:tech panel

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SAN FRANCISCO - Online content aggregators and professional content creators are challenged with creating revenue models in a user-generated world, executives on yesterday's keynote panel warned delegates attending the ad:tech San Francisco conference.

In the panel called "Content is King! (again?)," executives from the online content world discussed the dilemmas of creating revenue for both marketers and aggregators as increasing numbers of users are creating more content online.

"With the democratization of tools, the reality is that five minutes spent on YouTube watching a guy doing something silly is five minutes not spent watching 'The Office,'" said Jason Hirschhorn, president of Sling Media Entertainment Group. "Users don't care as much about professionally-created video or user-generated video as long as it's good and entertaining content."

With this model, aggregators such as the Google-owned YouTube are looking at ways to monetize content with marketing partners.

"I think that we care a lot about our content partners and we want our partners who do have professional content on our site to make revenue," said Suzie Reider, head of advertising at YouTube. "But we're looking at ad executions that will not disrupt the user experience, but will still give marketers a chance to create revenue."

Some ideas that YouTube is looking into include commercials that precede the video, overlay ads and display ads.

But the rise of user-generated content does not have to threaten big media.

Kourosh Karimkhany, general manager at Wired Digital, said the integration of professional material with user-generated content actually increases engagement.

"I don't think it's difficult to convince advertisers how we make money from the conversation," Mr. Karimkhany said. "Actually the conversation is more interesting than the stagnant form of traditional media."

Wired uses blogs to respond to users and popular blogs within its readership's community, creating a public dialog.

Regardless of the debate over professional versus user-generated content, one key is distribution.

"Distribution is absolutely mission-critical moving forward, so we need to work with the right companies to get our content out there," said Caroline H. Little, CEO and publisher of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. "One can't exist without the other. Aggregators need the content, and content providers need the aggregators."

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