You might think that Facebook, reddit, and Twitter are media sites, and you’d be right: they make their money from advertising. But their primary goal is rallying an engaged community that creates content. Similarly focused sites like Wikipedia make their money from other sources, such as donations.
We call these businesses user-generated content (UGC) sites. They deserve their own business model because their primary concern is the growth of an engaged community that creates content; without user activity, the sites stop functioning entirely. If you’ve decided that you’re in the UGC business, then this chapter explains what metrics you’ll need to track.
In this model, you’re focused on the creation of good content, which means not only posts and uploads but also votes, comments, spam flagging, and other valuable activity. UGC is about the amount of good content versus bad, and the percentage of users who are lurkers versus creators. This is an engagement funnel, similar to the traditional conversion funnels of an e-commerce model—only instead of moving prospects toward buying, you’re constantly trying to move your user population to higher and higher levels of engagement, turning lurkers into voters, voters into commenters, and so on.
Wikipedia is an example of a UGC site—good, reliable, well-referenced content helps the site; flame wars or frequent edits between two battling contributors are bad for it. Just as an e-commerce site ...