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Videos looking for a home

Amateur video artists are being elbowed offline by websites turning to more commercial fare.

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Whether it’s the dog on a skateboard, a fictionalized personal video journal, or clandestine footage of an Iranian political protester’s death, user-generated content (UGC) is to many the soul of the Internet. But bandwidth is not yet free and this sort of grass-roots creativity has not been a moneymaker for the many sites, such as Crackle and Metacafe, that provide homes for the amateur creations. Even the cyberbehemoth YouTube, now owned by Google, is still struggling to turn a profit. 

Now, say media analysts and creators alike, the need for paying customers is putting UGC in the back seat on many websites: Metacafe is not sharing ad revenue with content creators; Crackle shut off user-generated uploads; Yahoo closed Jumpcut; and YouTube has begun striking deals with premium content providers such as the BBC, Starz, and PBS

The trend concerns many advocates of a free and open Internet. 

“In the rush to monetize the Internet, the little guy is getting pushed out,” says Benjamin Wayne, a digital media strategist and CEO of Fliqz.

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