A lot of folks still don’t quite understand the benefit of having user-generated content on your site. It seems logical to have someone else do the work for you, doesn’t it? They create the content and you reap the benefits of indexed pages, better rankings and more sales…or, in growing cases, a book deal. Below I’ve highlighted three sites that have scored book deals thanks to the content others have created for them.
F My Life
F My Life is a site that allows you to send in a message that begins with “Today” and ends with “FML” (f*ck my life). If your submission gets accepted, it’ll get published on the website and users can vote on it with either a sympathetic “I agree, your life sucks” or a “you totally deserved it.” Here’s a sample FML:
It’s a simple concept, and its success lies entirely upon user-generated content. Everything on this site has been contributed by its readers. It even has an Illustrated FML section where users can actually create art based on a previously published FML (FML fan art — can you believe it?). There’s no reward for contributing other than the satisfaction of seeing your sad anecdote showcased on a public forum. F My Life has a book out that I’ve seen gracing the humor section at Barnes and Noble, enabling you to pay for a hard copy of other people’s misery.
This is Why You’re Fat
This is Why You’re Fat is a site that showcases pictures of heinous, calorie-laden food concoctions sent in by users. That’s pretty much all it is — it’s like food porn. Sloppy, unhealthy food porn. Here’s a sample creation:
People are actually spending time and money to make the most shocking and unhealthy combination of food imaginable while the site owner sits back and lets the submissions pour in. In fact, the webmaster’s even set up a separate URL for the book (bad idea from an SEO standpoint), showcasing a quote from Entertainment Weekly magazine. That’s some pretty nice press considering it’s a book “written” by hundreds of free contributors.
Shit My Dad Says
Probably the most egregious (and hilarious) example of UGC leading to a book deal is the Twitter account called Shit My Dad Says. The account was set up by a young guy who lives with his parents. His dad spouts off hilarious non sequiturs and snarky comments that he’s turned them into a Twitter feed. The profile gained a little bit of traction from Follow Friday, and then someone submitted it to Reddit and it pretty much exploded overnight, gaining over 420,000 followers in less than 2 months. Here’s a sample gem from the account:
The LA Times did an article about the Twitter account and revealed that Justin, the “ghost tweeter” and son of a real-life Frank Costanza, has gotten numerous book deal offers. That’s right, a book deal for someone’s Twitter account. It’s the only example in this post where the guy didn’t even create the website — he’s using an existing user generated content platform to showcase another person’s comments and he’s the one reaping the benefits. Basically, it’s UGC within UGC (holy meta — I think my head asploded).
Back in the day it used to be a bit more difficult to land a book deal. You had to submit a manuscript, know the right people, cross your fingers, and often repeat the process many times until you (hopefully) got lucky. Sure, you could self-publish (as you still can today), but nowadays the Internet has made it easier for publishers to come across a well-written blog that’s attracted some buzz and attention. Writing takes skill, imagination, and a serious time commitment, so imagine how much sweeter it is to get a book deal based on content that others have provided for you. And that’s the beauty of user-generated content. :)
Here are a few other sites that do a great job with UGC:
- Yelp — their whole site is pretty much dependent on user-submitted reviews of restaurants and businesses.
- Cracked — most of their lists that make it on Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon are contributed by their users.
- Urban Outfitters — a clothing store that allows people to review clothes and merchandise online. Users can see review stats of other people, such as their average ratings, how many times their reviews have been voted as “helpful,” etc.
- Bleacher Report — the world’s largest sports network that is powered entirely by fan-generated content.
- Texts from Last Night — a site similar to FML that allows you to submit drunken text messages to be showcased on the website.
- TripAdvisor — one of the best vacation review websites on the web today.