A timely snapshot
"Pitting amateur and professional content against each other makes a good storyline, but it's misleading to see them as fundamentally opposed," says Werbach. "User-generated content will never match The New York Times for the overall quality of coverage of the Iraq war, for example, but reading Iraqi blogs, or political blogs about the war, provides some perspectives you won't get from any newspaper." And, he adds, "There's no way a traditional encyclopedia will ever match the coverage of Wikipedia, because there are so many more contributors. On the other hand, while the quality of most Wikipedia entries is surprisingly good, there are times you want the certainty of a reference work that is professionally edited and vetted, or a smaller set of resources that have been pre-selected by experts."
Whitehouse agrees, and sees a hybrid approach emerging that embraces both professional and amateur content. Professional content on the web often has a user-generated component to it, whether it's a complementary blog or a user discussion forum. "The big challenge is the economic problem. What funded the traditional content model is falling apart," says Whitehouse. "Ideally, I see Internet content being a blend of professional and amateur content, but how do we develop an economic model that supports both?"