Technology is our friend: How Much Is Our User Generated Content Worth?
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June 28, 2011

How Much Is Our User Generated Content Worth?

Article first published as How Much Is Our User Generated Content Worth? on Technorati.

A few days ago, published an infographic in their blog. It is about the amount and value of user generated content on social networking sites, and at the end it asks: "Shouldn't users own their own content?" Well, in my opinion the answer is: NO. Just like the Huffington Post is sued by unpaid writers who had to witness the sale of the site for ridiculous money to AOL - and many people agree with them - I don't, and I feel we are looking at things from the wrong perspective.

The infographic states that a combined total of around 3,7 billion dollars are made from Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube and Facebook alone - from "our" content. While it seems to be a normal reflex to think that we should get a share of all this money, we forget that we get value in return:

I want to get links to interesting articles from Facebook friends, I want to see the latest NBA highlights on YouTube, I want to be able to look up someone I will encounter in a meeting on LinkedIn and I want to have my daily Conan O'Brien tweet. And I want to have a Like-Button in my own blog or be able to embed some YouTube video. That's more than enough value to me.

 So while Facebook generated 1,86 billion USD turnover in 2010 (and let's assume there were 550 million users during that year in average), everyone contributed content worth 3 dollars and 38 cents - consider this your fee to make Facebook happen, and it even did not come literally out of your pocket. It's a bit more than 28 cents a month, and that is by far less than the value the platform has given me.

On YouTube, we all watch around 720 billion (!) videos per year. Weigh that against the 945 million in revenue: 0,001 dollars per video, and I had priceless moments watching YouTube. It's simply worth it to give them my content for free.

If we combine the 5 social networks mentioned above and their roughly 3,7 billion total turnover in 2010, and again assume only 550 million different users would have visited those in total worldwide, we have an average value contribution of 6,73 USD per user during the whole year. Consider this your flat fee to use these 5 networks: slightly more than half a dollar per month.

No: we, the users, shouldn't own this content. Because if we owned our "own" content that we upload and submit to these platforms, we could sue these platforms to give us a share of the advertising revenue generated with it - and I would take bets that some of these platforms (that are of nearly unmeasurable value to many businesses and private persons) simply wouldn't exist if this were the case.

Maybe this will change in future: If we look at some crazy valuations (like 100 USD per user on LinkedIn), the ratio then might suggest that a social network should share revenue with its users. But until then, I am happy with the fact that these are free of charge, or, a matter of perspective, cost me half a dollar worth of content each month. To me, it's a bargain.