User Friendly

26 09 2010

A revolution took place in the last 15 years, a revolution that has chopped media outlets and corporations off at the knees. And it is only in the last couple of years that these companies have figured out how to turn lemons into lemonade.

That revolution (surprise, surprise) was the internet and the power it put into the hands of the general population. No longer would we be subjected to carefully crafted information and images provided by media moguls. If anything, this era should be called We The Media.

Because it means that our voices are on equal footing with those professionals who are paid to write, speak and shoot.

This leveling of the playing surface has spelled trouble for print and broadcast outlets, as well as the corporate world in general, because often we (as in you and me) are able to post newsworthy information faster than they. When at least one-half of the population not only has a computer with broadband access, but also a smartphone with still picture and video capabilities, that means everyone is a reporter. “This just in…Dr Gerlich is enjoying a Fat Tire with his colleagues over at Buffalo’s Southwest. The foam is over the top.”

So what’s a company to do?

Simple. Ask them. Welcome them. OK, beg them…to contribute.

Which is what Disney has done with their new Memories website at which people can post pics and videos of their family outings to Disney theme parks. Think YouTube, but Disney is footing the bill.

Now User Generated Content is not exactly a new thing. We have been entertained by UGC ads for Doritos the last few Super Bowls. UGC materials have run the gamut of consumer products. By embracing UGC, Disney and others have recognized that consumers have a valid voice (not to mention sophisticated electronic gear), and so it is better to invite them to the party than to run the risk of them holding their own.

The fact that I can upload memories created the next time we go to Disney is actually very effective means of brand reinforcement. Sure, the odds are slim that my videos will go viral, or even be seen by more than a handful of people, but my kids will have a blast returning to the site in the months and years to come. It will be a repository of our memories, all of which came about because of Disney in the first place.

Did I say that this will reinforce the whole Disney experience?

Granted, opening your website to every Spielberg wannabe carries great risk, for it means there must be some semblance of governance. Disney had better make sure each and every pic and video is fit to appear on their branded site, or run the risk of being embarrassed. Or insulting others. This is not like YouTube, which is digital land grab of the highest order.

And should viewers take the time to peruse the uploads of total strangers, perhaps they will be inspired to the return to the park…or others in the Disney line-up. It wouldn’s take much to get me to consider going to Anaheim next time instead of Orlando anyway, so maybe all I need to see is some footage of Disney’s California Adventure.

As a former collegiate journalist, I am fully aware of the conflict that has occurred because of all this technology and access. You know what they say about opinions, right? Yep. Everyone’s got one…along with something else I won’t mention. And when everyone starts spouting off those opinions on a public forum, it can only spell troubling times for the old guard. I suspect that this revolution is a big part of the reason why newspaper readership and TV news viewing are down. Who wants to listen to others when our voice can be just as loud?

That the extremely conservative Disney has now come to grips with this reality speaks to the need for all traditional media and corporations to recognize the change that has occurred. Each and every customer who totes a camera is now embraced. Each time Mickey, Minnie and friends appear online is just another advertisement. Each upload is an advance ticket sale on a future visit.

That lemonade taste pretty good, doesn’t it?

Dr “Fresh Squeezed” Gerlich


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