Thoughts on Havas Media Lab’s The New Economics of Consumption: User Generated Context

I downloaded Havas Media Lab’s latest strategy paper, The New Economics of Consumption: User Generated Context, a few weeks back but only got around to reading it last night.

And what a nice little strategy paper it is too. It’s fair to say it is more of a thought starter than a fully fleshed out document which tells businesses and investors how they can adapt to the ‘new economics of consumption’ – but that’s what Havas’ clients pay for I suppose.

The authors’ (I presume Umair Haque must be in there somewhere) argument is that business models based in user-generated content are failing. This failure is based on the idea that value doesn’t reside within user-generated content, but in fact within user-generated context.

To illustrate the point, Havas suggests:

The vast majority of blog posts are context for newspaper articles. Connected consumers on MySpace spend much of their time discussing and connecting with bands … consumers aren’t creating content: they’re creating content for goods.


it’s by letting connected consumers contextualise content that tsunamis of new value can be unlocked (just ask Google)

In conclusion, Havas pulls out three general observations that reinforce how context is very different from content.

  1. Context is not really ‘generated’ in the sense of simple creation, but evolves in a more complex way, often linked to specific cultural references that can often make no sense to outside audiences.
  2. Context is not produced by single users, but only emerges when the views and information produced by users is aggregated.
  3. The production of context does not open up direct competition with existing content producers – e.g. the advertising industry

I really like the paper and its challenge to conventional thought about socal media and UG content, however I think we need to put some its ideas into a wider framework.

For example, based on an analysis of Techmeme Havas argues that the most talked about and viewed content online is produced by professional content producers e.g. Techcrunch, CNET, New York Times, while amateur users produce context.

While I absolutely agree with their overall argument, the strategy paper does seem to ignore the fact that non-professional content producers exist… and produce compelling content.

And if we accept that there is professional and less professional content being produced online how does this fit into the idea that connected consumers produce solely context, rather than content?

Technorati tags: Havas Media Lab, Umair Haque, user generated context, digital strategy