Web 2.0 Summit today Current.tv co-founder Joel Hyatt told the audience that his video site and TV channel has landed multiple multi-million dollar advertising deals with giant companies, based on non-professional commercials created by fans. That's something that a whole lot of companies have been trying to do, unsuccessfully, for years.At the
Hyatt was joined on stage by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, who once again repeated the "wait and see" answer when asked about his monetization strategy. Side-by-side with Current's success, Twitter's continued stalling seemed more unsatisfying than ever - but success in general felt more possible when we saw what Current has done.
Hyatt wouldn't disclose how many of these deals they've done or what kind of revenue the company has, but he did say that Sony, HP and Loreal were all advertisers. The audience today saw a pretty compelling example in a Prius commercial reportedly made by some guy who owns a Prius and likes it a lot.
Hyatt said that surveys show viewers prefer user generated advertising 9 to 1 over Madison Avenue's creations. Anecdotally, though, we know that recent history is littered with examples of campaigns where a trickle of users produced a handful of boring ad segments for uninspiring products.
How Did They Do it?
How has Current done it? Here's our theory. The TV station and news video website has a large audience of edgy young thinkers already, they eat their own dog food with non-stop risk taking and innovation and they've got great cachet with a sizable and desirable crowd - fans of company co-founder Al Gore. Current probably gets a lot of terrible ad and content submissions, but they must get enough that there are some really compelling submissions to choose from. Current site visitors participate in that selection process, which you can check out in action here.
This may or may not be a formula that's accessible for other companies, but we're sure that everyone who saw Hyatt's talk today took note: someone is doing it. Current has found a way to make real money with user generated ads. That's pretty remarkable, and we expect that if and when more examples of this kind of success emerge in coming years - Current will be remembered as a trailblazer in yet another part of the new media world.
Watch this space for full video coverage of Hyatt and Evan Williams on stage, along with more from the O'Reilly/TechWeb Web 2.0 Conference, to be posted on ReadWriteWeb later today.