Years ago, user-generated content (UGC) was typically perceived as “low-quality” media, or at the very least, “lowbrow” entertainment. While the bite-sized content was often engaging, if not inspired, brands tended to shy away from it in fear that an unsavory YouTube clip or crazy cat meme wouldn’t sit well–or neatly–next to their carefully crafted brand message.

That’s no longer the case, though–not when 80% of online content today is user-generated. Social media and self-publishing tools have created a glut of online amateur content while also increasing the overall quality of the material. As a result, we’ve seen a sea change in the way publishers work with and integrate UGC onto their sites, and the way they sell it as a value-add for brands.

Smart publishers have found ways to produce professional content, while also tapping their communities to enhance that content with their own. Also, more publishers now have a reputation platform in place allowing them to surface the best UGC and gather a wealth of data on the best experts in their communities. By doing so, publishers get brand-safe material to leverage-and opportunities for new revenue in the bargain.

Still, it’s a nascent, unique model that only a handful are embracing effectively. Here are, in my view, the top three.

By Antoine Boulin, President, Media, TechMedia Network

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TechMedia Network, a network of tech and science Websites with a global reach of over 72 million, is expected to today announce a native advertising offering that will span all of TMN’s owned and operated sites, which include its partner sites. Additionally, TMN has built a content discovery platform that will recommend native ads based on consumer behavior patterns. TMN’s new native offering will be for direct deals.

Mike Kisseberth, the company’s chief revenue officer, spokeexclusively with RTM Daily about the launch. It’s the first marketing product since TMN acquired Bestofmedia Group, which added Tom’s brand technology properties to TMN’s existing properties. ComScore ranks TMN fifth in global tech media reach and third domestically.

Living up to the “native” moniker, the company plans to use their editorial leadership to guide the content of the ads. To gear up for that, TMN today announced the appointments of Fritz Nelson and Mark Spoonauer as editor-in-chiefs of respective Tom’s brand properties. A TMN representative told RTM Daily that Nelson and Spoonauer are expected to help guide the content of the native ads.

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The always on technology of mobile is changing consumers’ online habits. When they used to go online to buy a movie ticket, for example, mobile allows consumers to watch movie trailers, look up reviews and then buy a ticket. Or not. This change in habits isn’t lost on one community-based hub; here’s how Tom’s Hardware is increasing engagement without giving up on their core content focus.

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