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CNN Joins User-Generated Content Fray

CNN.com's today opened the gates to CNN Exchange, a new online platform for user-generated content, including photos, video and text.

It's a new online venture, utilizing a longtime CNN technique, spokeswoman Jennifer Martin told internetnews.com.

"User-generated content, amateur video, citizen journalism, whatever you want to call it, has been around for a while," she said.

"User-generated content played a really big role in being able to show first-hand accounts after the Rodney King beating, Sept. 11, the London bombings."

Still, despite Martin's claims of a long-time relationship with user- generated content, platforms such as CNN Exchange are clearly a part of relatively recent and popular trends on the Web.

From MySpace to YouTube, user-created content is often called the driving force behind Web 2.0. Some argue that it's the only reason the Internet was ever relevant, citing the interactivity of early and sustaining successes such as eBay.

But despite the surging popularity of user-generated content, online publishers are having a hard time harness it for profit.

MySpace, for example, is thought to be wildly popular, but only slightly profitable.

The reason is that brand managers, only lately growing comfortable with advertising on the Internet at all, are still wary of putting their products next to unbridled users.

Without big-money brand advertisers, those hosting user-generated content are often forced to rely on low-paying banner ads that typically pay only cents per impression.

It's a problem CNN Exchange gets around by not quite allowing users to generate whatever content they want.

"We want to make sure this material is vetted," Martin said.

"All of our reporting, even from our own internal correspondents, goes through some very strict vetting. We're going to hold this user-generated content to those same standards."

That's all code for editorial control. And while it's good for journalistic standards, it's also good for paying the bills with blue chip brand advertising.

"We already have eager advertisers to sponsor the Exchange," Martin said.