The popularity of websites for content that users themselves create, modify, rate or recommend indicates their great market potential, says the study. Although still experimenting with various business models, from advertising to subscription revenue, the study said European sites offering video and photo sharing, social networking, blogs or virtual worlds, will have a profitable future only if serious obstacles are overcome at EU level.
For example, in the 13 European countries surveyed , 65% of internet users read blogs and one in four actively contributes to or writes a blog. However, European citizen journalists on sites like Agora Vox (France) face different obligations and privileges for their function while it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between amateur and professional journalists regardless to whether they adhere or not to professional standards and ethics.
Bringing greater clarity and certainty to the obligations and privileges of citizen journalists would help develop a promising online advertising market that saw professional European bloggers in the countries surveyed earn an average annual income of over €6600 ($9827) in 2008, almost twice as much as in the United States (€3600 ($5360)).
Users and creators of other web 2.0 services also face a lack of legal clarity. For example, Romanians lead the way in watching and uploading videos and podcasting (92.5%, 47.3% and 64% of internet users respectively, compared to 74.2%, 25.3% and 29.5% of US internet users), but users and owners of video and photo sharing sites like the Romanian Neogen.tv, Tuclip (Spain) and Fotosik(Poland) and music and eBook recommendation sites like Deezer (France) and Biblioteket.se (Sweden) are limited by uncertainties, mainly about how existing rules on audiovisual services, copyright, e-commerce and data protection apply to their new kinds of services and content.
The European Commission launched the Study on user-created content consistently with the 2008 mid-term review of the i2010 strategy adopted by the Commission on 1 June 2005 which called for an assessment of the challenges and the impact of the participative web on European digital economy (IP/08/605).
This study, carried out for the European Commission by IDATE, TNO and IViR, is available on the i2010 website