Consumer-created media can be fun, frantic and fantastic, but it might also become fatal to your fiscal health. Scott G is pleased to scare you with this modern horror tale.

The music news site “Friday Morning Quarterback” posted a brief but chilling story about MyBBCRadio allowing “listeners to take control and create their own personalized content.” Utilizing peer-to-peer technology, they had 4.5 million podcasts downloaded in May.

Consumer TV
Meanwhile, commercials are being broadcast for Current, “a national cable and satellite channel dedicated to bringing your voice to television.” They call it viewer-created content, or VC2. “Anyone who wants to contribute can upload a video.”

Internet Videos
CNET invites you to become a content supplier: “If you love your gadgets, hate your gadgets, or just can’t stop talking about them, you’re ready to be the star of your own CNET video. Share your real-world experience with the technology that has infiltrated your life for better or worse. Create and send us your video.”

Ever since the first blog, we’ve had consumer-created news commentary (much of it ungrammatical and mostly unfamiliar with Spell Check). But today, things are becoming like “Consumers Gone Wild” with consumer-created radio, podcasts, TV programming, virals, and more.

Ads From The Masses
The most important category of all is consumer-created advertising because it may cause some of us in communications to become unemployed. Well, not me. I will always have this journalism gig to fall back on. I once lived for two months without buying a single meal just by writing positive restaurant reviews. (Confession: Wilbur’s Chili Shack in East Wocapsi is not “A five-star dining experience.”) But I digress. I put the question to some of the Adrants/Soflow folks:

Gogi Gupta reports on consumer-created buying services. A company called Teambuy in Japan organizes “smart mobs” which confront managers of large stores with instant orders for hundreds of big-ticket items if they can negotiate a deep enough price discount.

Barbara Pflughaupt points out that some firms are soliciting consumer-created commercials for contests as well as distribution on places like YouTube and eBaum’s World.

Phil McGaughey doesn’t see any harm in any of this. “The first consumer products companies that truly let consumers take control over the brand, products, and message will vault past the competition in a single bound.” he writes.

As a consultant to corporations, I like Phil’s point, depending on the company and its marketplace. But I also appreciate Chris Boardman’s questions about consumer-created content: “When will the novelty wear off? Will user generated content/control be sustaining? And probably most important of all, how will greed enter into the equation?”

How long will corporations pay consultants for creativity when they can get a whole bunch of free ads? (Especially if ad agencies like Crispin Porter Bogusky keep creating Burger King commercials that look like some bozo’s home movies.)

Ray Podder turns the whole discussion around by focusing on the content itself. Calling the consumer-creators “seekers,” Podder asks “Is the transfer of information between supplier and seeker meaningful?”

Ray is insightful on the subject but the meaning I’m concerned with is whether we can continue sending invoices to clients. This almost makes one hope that nothing worthwhile is accomplished in consumer-created media.

Hijacking a Brand
Phil McGaughey says the “new Tommy Hilfiger is an example of consumers TAKING OVER a brand, unless you think he planned to create preppy clothes that rappers and hoodlums would wear in sizes that were twice the size that they needed.”

Did Phil contradict himself from his earlier comment? No, because he differentiates between a take over and a hand over. This lets me breathe a sigh of relief because I think that means the marketing people are going to have to guide things in the increasingly contentious world of corporation/consumer interaction.

What Do Regular People Know?
Sometimes, the average guy is right on the money about things. Sometimes not. I, for one, am a bit dubious about consumer-created surgery.

I’d like to think that advertising, marketing, positioning, branding and sonic branding will be mostly left to professionals, but I don’t know. And the supporters of consumer-created content are willing to provide help for the neophytes: “We’ve also got online training to help you get the skills you need to make TV!” says the Current site.

It may not be long before IBM hands over its marketing and advertising to Pam and Sam’s Ads ‘n’ Such Emporium. Or perhaps they’ll just let the Current channel producers handle it. Say goodbye to your marketing career and say hello to Joe Sixpack, Creative Director.

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