Social media content is, by nature, shared; people like to share their experiences, and they use social media programs to do it.  I, myself, just shared pictures of the first snow of the season on my Facebook page.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But I think I do have an issue with commercial/profit-making sites asking me to send them my content so they can put it on their website or television program.  Organizations like news sites like to say, “Send us your photos of this event or that sighting, and we’ll show it here.  Comment on our site and we’ll post it below.  Here’s what our viewers have to say.”  One reason they do this is so they don’t have to hire or contract a photographer or newsperson to generate this content, which saves them money and increases their profits.  Well, I made an effort to take that photo or video too.  Why should I give it away to an entity that will use it to improve their profits, and not get a cut from that?

In an age where people are having more and more trouble finding worthwhile work… where jobs are specifically being cut and free public content is being substituted, benefiting the company alone… where the imbalance of company profits versus personal profits seem to be growing day by day… and where every company seems to solicit your opinion specifically for them to post and improve their popularity… maybe it’s time to revisit the arrangement between for-profit organizations and public input.

It’s high time for for-profit companies to pay for social media content solicited from the public.

tinymoneyI’m not talking about a lot of money, but at least a micropayment… a dollar, say… for every photo or text message they solicit and use on their websites and programs.  For audio or videos, a set amount per second used.  Even on-the-street interviews should have a dollar amount placed on them.  Only content actually used would be paid for, which should encourage people to send the best content they can.

This seems only fair to me: These companies are using the content they receive from private citizens to improve their popularity and effectiveness, and to cut down on their employee roster, which they can use to justify commercial costs and value to shareholders; they are making money off of private citizens’ content; professionals who appear on their programs and sites get paid for their work; so private citizens should also be receiving some compensation for the input that generates money for said company.

This is, in fact, an extension of the fact that social media companies themselves make a load of money off of content provided by private citizens.  Citizens make people like Mark Zuckerberg rich and famous, without receiving any compensation for their contribution to his fame and fortune.  All social media that grows off of freely-uploaded content is equally guilty of profiting off of others’ efforts.  And whether you agreed to be a part of it or not, it’s blatantly unfair; profiteering off of an unsuspecting public.

Basic incomeIF this country ever starts talking about ideas like Universal Basic Income, this could be part of that overall concept: Paying individuals for efforts that contribute to the public good, including supplying even simple social media content to for-profit companies.  This would encourage private citizens to create content that contributes to public knowledge and edification, while putting a proper burden on companies to pay for the content they receive.  Individuals would probably register an account with a content solicitor, and would have those micropayments applied to that account whenever content was used (and a system of auditing that usage and proper payment thereupon will need to be put in place).

Even quick reviews should earn private citizens something (how about reviewing a restaurant and getting a few bucks off your meal?).  Every organization that asks for a review just because you walked in the door should be willing to compensate you for that 1-2 minutes of effort.  And if not, maybe they should reconsider those annoying pop-ups that appear on my phone whenever I’m within spitting distance of a store (Verizon, I’m looking square at you).

So, there’s my proposal.  I think it could go a long way to lessening the imbalance between for-profit companies who solicit for free content to cut costs and individuals willing to provide content but aren’t compensated for their trouble.  Seems only fair.