For the last ten years we have been talking of the 90:9:1 rule of content creation on the internet.

This rule might be undergoing some serious changes, without us giving it any serious thought. Not just the rule, this whole business of content creation is heading for some troubled times.

one_percentAccording to this 90:9:1 rule, in any online community (PC or mobile) the percentage of users creating content would be only 1% while 9% of them would curate the content (that is, help the better content emerge on top by liking or commenting) and the rest (the 90%) will be the silent readers/consumers of the content.

With Social Networking almost saturating the population on the Internet (at last count this was almost half of the 2 billion users who are online), this 90:9:1 rule may be undergoing a change. For two reasons:

1) It is now much easier to be a content creator
2) Most often than not, the content created is only for a sub-set of users on the internet

How is it easier to be a content creator?

Back in those days, to be a content creator one had to write a full-fledged article, author a blog post, construct a review or perhaps provide an answer to a question on Yahoo Answers. This required good communication skills and even better knowledge on the subject being discussed. Not anymore.

A 140 character tweet, a 300 character Facebook status update qualifies me as a content creator now. Not to mention the ability to ‘Retweet’ on Twitter or ‘Share’ on Facebook – such features which enable users to re-purpose content require no communication skills and knowledge on the subject. In fact, this has resulted in the redefinition of the participant called ‘content creator.’

Besides, earlier the format of content creation was text – a difficult ask. Now they can also be photos or videos etc, which are much easier. All you need is a camera phone.

How is the content created for a subset of the Internet?

Soon Facebook will have one billion users – that’s 1 out of every seven person on this Earth and 1 out of every 2 person using the Internet. This growth could stagnate but I don’t see this usage going down (considering so much of lifetime investment already done by FB users, over the years).

It would be fair to assume that around half of all unique content creators that create content on Internet are on Facebook….and considering Facebook’s high user engagement numbers, I would say a lot of content does get created – all of which is restricted to my friends alone (based on my privacy settings).
The problem is…the friends-only or friends-of-friends only restriction doesn’t make the content universally available.

This means, my 300 characters review of a resort called ‘Botanix Resort’ which I posted on FB isn’t searchable by the universe.

The long-term negative impact

Unfortunately, with the direction in which the user generated content is going….I feel soon they might not be useful for the rest of the internet in general and eCom in particular.

Reviews, Answers & Blog Posts are the user-generated content that have the power to convince a user to buy or rent a good or a service. Status updates or photographs are too shallow an endorsement to ensure adoption. And to top it, these status updates and photos uploaded are unsearchable for people outside my sub-set.

The short-term bandage

Good thing that I see happening with User Generated Content (be it within a Social network or outside of it), is that the Product Managers are trying to provide a layer of editorial smartness (for the lack of a better word). By editorial smartness, I mean they are writing algorithms to display the best content, they are moderating it to display the cleanest, etc.

rajinikanth facebook page

Rajinikanth's Facebook page is open to the public and searchable for the whole universe

In fact, Facebook also tries to do it within its own confines when it says “Friend 1, & Friend 2 also commented on Rajinikanth”….and direct users to Facebook’s Rajinikanth’s page. And Facebook’s Rajinikanth’s page is searchable by the universe.

What are your thoughts? Am I making a big issue of nothing?