User-Generated Content Is Dead



The proliferation of user-generated opinions on various Web sites is increasingly being challenged.

“In short, the expert is back,” writes Newsweek.

“People are beginning to recognize that the world is too dangerous a place for faulty information,” said Charlotte Beal, a consumer strategist for the Minneapolis-based research firm Iconoculture. She adds that choice fatigue and fear of bad advice are creating a “perfect storm of demand for expert information.” >>Full Story

Thoughts// This type of story is the reason why I started the Travel 2.0 blog. The headline, from travel news site Travel Mole reads ‘Tourists saying ‘no’ to user-generated opinions.’ The ‘story’ goes on to quote the original Newsweek article that discusses the growing popularity of ‘expert’ sites. And, if you were just to read the headline and some of the article, you might think that the entire UGC trend is collapsing around us…which is not the case.

The article on Travel Mole does cite a few references of these new expert sites (BigThink.com, Mahalo and About.com), however none of them have very much relevance to the travel industry, let alone that headline. The article goes on to say pretty much nothing and probably leaves most readers even more confused about UGC than they were in the first place.

Typically, I am not this direct in an opinion, I try to give the benefit of the doubt, but it is this kind of lethargic journalism that is partially responsible for the out-of-control UGC buzz in the first place. And now you are telling me it is over?

Not so fast. No facts, no evidence, no proof that TripAdvisor has seen a X% of decline in travel reviews. Unless you have some evidence, don’t make blanket statements that scare most VPs and CEOs into running down to the interactive department and ask them what happened.

Just stop it.

Now, about that Newsweek article. It is fair, but not great. True, there has been some significant growth in the ‘expert’ advice area with sites such as BigThink.com, but that should not come at a surprise. Everything in the online world (if not the entire world) is cyclical…constantly moving back and forth…too many vague, random opinions on which can-opener works the best, let’s get some experts in here to tell us the truth.

And it should also come as no surprise that the founder of Mahalo thinks the site is a great idea. I would hope so.

Let’s show a little restraint here.

Personally, I have been asking the question for a while if consumer interest in UGC will decline (see our comments from October on Will Human Laziness Burst The Web 2.0 Bubble?) . However, I think we can agree that UGC is not going away. Consumers know the power of their opinion. There is some balancing that will occur between ‘amateur UGC’ and ‘expert UGC’, but either way, user-generated content is here to stay.

So, how does a DMO fit into this puzzle? Who better to be an expert on your city, state, country, etc. than you?

Now, how do you start communicating with those consumers using UGC?

That is the real question.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.