Diamonds In The Rough

I’ve been involved in an interesting discussion over at Scott Karp’s blog… Publishing 2.0. The original post dealt with the recent announcement by Frito-Lay that they will be using “user-generated content” to produce their Super-Bowl spot this year… you can get all the details here. Scott’s post posed the question of how long this sort of promoting… or as I prefer to call it, production method… can last. His take is that the “best” talent will inevitably require professional level compensation and won’t simply keep producing new content for big corporations for free.

This looks good on its face, but it soon breaks down when you realize that the “BEST” talent is not always known. Under the 20th century production model the barrier to entry was significant so this unknown talent went unused. Rarely would the disenfranchised have the capital it would take to put together the a reel that would make anyone that “mattered” take notice. In order to produce anything of quality you would have to track through the accepted channels… school, internship, assistant, apprentice, whatever. Materials of production were expensive and some kid off the street just couldn’t be trusted with them.

As technology developed this barrier became almost non-existent and now almost anyone with a few dollars and some imagination can produce something that can be shown on the Super Bowl. So is it problem that the kid off the street might produce a Super Bowl spot and get little more than a slap on the back and a trip to the game? Is he a sucker?

I for one don’t feel comfortable making those kind of judgments on people I don’t know. But if you ask yourself where would that kid be if he hadn’t entered that contest things start to make a little more sense. One thing is for sure… he wouldn’t be at the Super Bowl and he wouldn’t be the creator of perhaps the most watched and talked about 30 seconds of video in the world.

So the kid wins. Frito-Lay wins. But can it last?

If we assume it can’t, we’d also have to assume that at some point everybody making videos… or at least those with talent… will be getting paid for their services. I would love to see that, but I just don’t think it’s going to ever happen. No matter what you want to believe cream will not always rise to the top. There will always be people with talent who for whatever reason just don’t get noticed in their field. And there will always be a Frito-Lay willing to find that diamond in the rough.

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