I think the most interesting comment in Rupert Murdoch’s BBC interview last night was this:
In twenty years time, everybody in the world is going to be able to get broadband, and express themselves on it.
Not ‘consume my Fox content on it’, not even ‘buy stuff over it’. There’s been a lot of debate over the last decade about whether or not Murdoch ‘gets’ the internet – well, in those few words, I think he’s put his finger on something absolutely critical. Yes, content is king, and yes, he owns a lot of the world’s content. The value of that content won’t drop. But suddenly you can appreciate why he spent £330m on Myspace.
User-generated content, though, is still evolving. Sure, Myspace can boast huge numbers of users, mainly angsty teenagers in my limited experience. (It gives me a headache – am I getting old?) My guess is that – as a brand – it will ‘burn out’ like a boy-band; little sisters don’t want to share the same ‘space’ as their big sisters. To everything, there is a season. I’m currently debating whether to move my personal photo galleries from my MSN Space to Flickr. Turn, turn, turn. In a word… Altavista.
How far do we stretch the definition of ‘self expression’, of user-generated content? Surely it needs to be something a bit more substantial than just a blogging platform. If pressed, I’d guess that we’ll see ‘personal areas’ becoming a regular feature of big content-driven sites. It’s easy to imagine a movie site where users can contribute their own reviews, sitting alongside ‘professional’ editorial. You would come for the Hollywood gossip; you’d stay for the community. I’m not ruling out the possibility of completely new ‘media brands’ appearing, as Ohmynews famously did in Korea: but let’s be honest, Dan Gillmor’s Bayosphere project didn’t set the world on fire quite as we probably hoped.
One thing I will definitely correct him on, though: I already have a tablet-style device by my bed, and I do (occasionally) read my daily news on it – via Bloglines and a multitude of RSS feeds, rather than a single newspaper. Forget ten or fifteen years, as the BBC’s Jeff Randall speculated; it’s a lot closer than that.