In the hyperdynamic, ever-evolving Web media world, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) has been looking like the Neanderthal to Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Homo sapiens. After spending 2005 mulling plans to air TV-like shows, Yahoo! switched course in 2006 in favor of user-generated videos. Then, Google appeared to outmaneuver Yahoo! by snapping up YouTube, the leader in the user-produced video space. Finally, a recently leaked memo from a senior Yahoo! executive suggests that the company is marked by internal differences over strategy.
But a new effort could help Yahoo! take a step back toward the top of the evolutionary ladder. Saul Hansell of The New York Times writes that Yahoo! and Reuters (Nasdaq: RTRSY ) will inaugurate a service that invites users to submit videos and photographs that Yahoo! and Reuters could then incorporate into their news offerings.
Back in June, I wrote that Yahoo!'s decision to concentrate on user-generated video made sense but that providing an incentive (I was thinking a monetary prize) to submit material could raise the bar on content quality, boost traffic, and increase the revenue Yahoo! generates from external clips. Now Yahoo! has hit upon an alternative incentive: the opportunity to be a real photojournalist.
The popularity of MySpace, YouTube, various blogs, and other user-generated sites sheds light on a widespread craving in our media-saturated society -- the desire to reach out, get some recognition, maybe even snatch 15 minutes of fame. Unfortunately, the plethora of opportunities for self-expression has led to a cacophony that tends to drown out individual voices.
For better or worse, media giants such as Yahoo! and Reuters still retain an aura of legitimacy that allows them to cut through the Web community's clamor. And now, Yahoo! and Reuters are giving users the chance to join that officialdom and maybe even get a modicum of recognition. Believe it or not, I think this could be a powerful draw and land lots more user-generated content (and by extension, advertising revenue) for Yahoo! Reuters reportedly will compensate users in certain cases -- something I think Yahoo! should seriously consider.
Of course, the program is not without its pitfalls. As the New York Times article notes, Yahoo! and Reuters will have to sort through lots of submissions and find ways to ensure that material is legitimate. Even so, the payoff is likely to be well worth these headaches.