It’s not a secret weapon. It’s so powerful that sites ranging from Wikipedia to Ebay couldn’t exist without it. I emphasize its importance every time I do a presentation and talk about it with all of my clients. But “user contributed content” is hard to define and harder to understand.

Unlike a personal blog created by an individual, user contributed content is provided by a community (of visitors to a website). If many people share information and interact with each other, the whole can definitely be greater than the sum of the parts.

Harnessing user contributed content can make websites more dynamic, useful, and significant. Few filmmakers have yet tapped its full potential. Most of the best examples are from elsewhere.

TPM Muckraker
In the headlines for weeks, the firing of eight U.S. attorneys has already caused a wave of resignations at the Justice Department. The story was broken by Talking Points Memo (TPM), a political blog that scooped the New York Times, the Washington Post, and every other major media outlet. Operated by a small staff out of a single room, TPM drew on the power of readers across the country to accomplish what the media establishment couldn’t. Over a two-month period, they gathered enough damning evidence that these US attorneys had been improperly fired that Congress took notice. [Check out the LA Times story, “Blogs Can Top the Presses,” which described how TPM bested traditional media powerhouses by harnessing its readers.]

I will highlight more examples of websites that have tapped the thoughts, images, and passions of users. Please send us any great examples you come across, particularly ones focusing on independent films.

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