But how do you convince this VC genius to reach into his ultra-deep pockets and fund your site? Whats the magic word? Okay, take a deep breath and try this catch-phrase:
Bingo! You did it. Now that Mr. Moneybags knows youll be fueling your Web traffic with user-generated content instead of the expensive kind created by journalists hell be happy to front you a fat stake. Congratulations.
User-generated content is the monster thats devouring the Internet, remaking it in its own, free-form, semi-chaotic image. Web publishing, it turns out, is a supremely interactive medium its not merely an online version of an old-fashioned newspaper. People dont want to just read, they want to talk back, discuss, curse, throw venomous personal attacks, and occasionally say something positive.
Its this rage for user-generated that inspired Time magazine to crown You as Person of the Year in 2006. Its also what prompted Rupert Murdoch to spend mega-bucks on MySpace, and why Google dug deep for YouTube. The user-generated wave will only crest higher in the years ahead.
But what about the current sites that are leading the charge? Will todays pioneers, the early adopters that forged this trend, continue to set the standard? Some fearless predictions:
Complete monthly visitors: 68.2 million. Headed up or down? Down.
The quintessential gathering place for the teen-tween set, MySpace has seen its day in the sun. Traffic data from Quantcast reveals it has been steadily losing ground this year. The problem: With the rise of the more mature Facebook, MySpace now seems like the place for kiddies a death knell for people who really are kiddies. MySpace, in a word, is just so 2006. Still, the site has an incredibly loyal audience, so its fade will be a slow one.
Complete monthly visitors: 41.4 million. Headed up or down? Down.
Plenty of competitive sites are being built, but Wikipedias entrenchment in Google (on the first page for zillions of topics) means its first mover advantage will be tough to unseat. As of recent count, the user-created encyclopedia boasts 2.1 million articles and growing.
But it has a glaring weakness. At its typical error rate (roughly estimated at 2-3 per article at least) Wikipedia offers somewhere between 4.2 and 6.3 million errors in its pages a veritable plague of misinformation. Long term, the concept of an amateur-created encyclopedia, with opinionated writers squabbling over competing versions, isnt sustainable. As the Internet matures, a heavyweight like Encyclopedia Britannica will open its pages online to suck in the ad dollars. When that happens, Wikipedia will die a well-deserved death.
Complete monthly visitors: 23.8 million. Headed up or down? Up.
Its an unbeatable combination: Monkeys on skateboards, a global lip-sync festival, and amateur videos of politicians making compromising comments. Youve heard of attempts to steamroll over YouTube, (Joost, for instance) but notice theyve failed to gain critical mass. YouTube has two big pluses in terms of attracting users: its very easy to use, and its rules regarding copyright are comparatively lax. But its real trump card is being owned by Google. Google rules the Internet, now and for the foreseeable future. (And, in fact, Google is the ultimate user-generated business, since its search listings display other peoples Web sites.)
Complete monthly visitors: 22.5 million. Headed up or down? Up.
In 2006, Facebook began reaching outside its traditional audience of students with great success. Kids, twentysomethings, boomers and even oldsters now hang out there. Additionally, the site offers thousands of applications to extend its functionality: mini software programs to, for instance, help you work collaboratively, or network more effectively. Facebook is on track to be the social networking platform. Bonus: Facebook just inked a deal with ABC news for expanded political coverage.
Complete monthly visitors: 25.5 million. Headed up or down? Down.
Who would have guessed? Despite competing with established photo hosting sites like Flickr and Yahoo Photos, the straight-ahead Photobucket has grabbed the most traffic in this sector. Its done so by offering a hosting service that encourages users to direct-link to their photos on Photobucket from other sites; tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of site owners have done so. Major bonus point: it also hosts video.
But over time it faces headwinds: however useful, Photobucket is more of a tool than a community; people are using it because its convenient, but someday someone will create a more multi-featured tool, and users will migrate. Community thrives; tools are merely used and discarded.