Why Comic Relief is showing the more charitable side of Web 2.0

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rednoseday-piczo.jpgIt can feel like the world of Web 2.0 is all about numbers sometimes. MySpace has 160 million members, and is getting paid $900 million by Google for the rights to sell advertising on it. YouTube attracted 133.5 million visitors in January, but is getting sued for $1 billion by Viacom for alleged copyright infringement. There are 262,958 pet pooches on Dogster.

Commerce, commerce, commerce. The buzz is understandably around how much these Web 2.0 sites are worth, how much money they can make from advertising, and whether it’s worth taking a few millions of extra venture capital to fund a spin-off Shitzu portal (okay, that’s just Dogster then). It’s all about the commerce, baby.

This is why the news that Comic Relief has been working with several Web 2.0 firms is quietly heartening, proving that social networks CAN have socially responsible elements, alongside the more money-grubbing side of the business.

Example one: social network Piczo has launched a competition with Comic Relief, inviting users to upload videos of themselves impersonating comedy characters, with the winner getting to be involved in Comic Relief itself, working behind the scenes at a national fundraising campaign.

According to Piczo, it’s the ideal way to tap into the creativity of its users for a genuinely good cause (as opposed to just lip-synching the latest Ray From Pop Idol song, I guess). Piczo UK has a dedicated section devoted to Comic Relief which gives more details (and read Techscape’s interview with UK MD Chris Seth for more info on how Piczo is evolving).

moblog-rednoseday.jpgExample two: moblogUK has set up a dedicated Red Nose Day moblog (as reported here earlier today), and is getting people to send in snaps of themselves wearing their red noses, while getting celebs to post jokes and their own images too. It’s part of the wider marketing campaign around this year’s Comic Relief.

Example three: Bebo’s homepage will be given a Comic Relief makeover on March 16th, Red Nose Day itself, and the charity is also doing all manner of video stuff on YouTube and Google Video.

The point is that charities have clearly cottoned on to the potential of social networking and user-generated content – both to raise awareness and hard cash. And the good thing is that the Web 2.0 sites appear to be co-operating. These services have millions of users, and yes, they probably will soon be making millions from advertising. But the idea of harnessing the power of their users for A Good Cause is comforting.

Now, if MySpace could do something around climate change, we’d really be talking…

Stuart Dredge