Posts Tagged 'U.K.'

User Generated Content + News = ?

City University’s Neil Thurman (U.K.) has an interesting study on the use of user-generated content by news companies. Is UGC the solution to the problems that many news companies face–such as declines in print circulation, and blogs and Google sniping at their heels? Engagement is important for these companies, as is building something that fits seamlessly into the existing business.

First, from the audience perspective, how do audiences respond to “citizen journalism”? According to Thurman, the adoption has been slow so far. On a popular debate forum on BBC’s site, 0.5 percent of users contributed, which is lower than the average of 1 percent on many social media sites, noted the Guardian’s Jemima Kiss.

However, news companies aren’t social media companies, and expecting them to have Facebook-like virality is expecting too much. It is still early days and many news organizations are trying to figure this problem out. Some have been working on it for a while. The Bakersfield Californian was an early tester of this model when it launched Northwest Voice in 2004–itself inspired by South Korea’s OhMyNews.

How do news companies react to UGC? Thurman notes:

“A belief in the need to control, moderate or sub users’ submissions so that they met the standards of professionally produced output was strongly held.”

Does user generated content add to news companies’ business? The question is probably better asked as, what is the best way for news companies to drive more traffic and keep readers on their sites? Of course, the business of news is different from that of a Disney or Scion, which are building communities to engage with their audiences around their brands. News companies are built on their reputation and credibility of their news. Mixing hard news with UGC news is a delicate matter. But it is a necessary issue to confront, increasing competition on all fronts. It can be done, and is completely necessary, a number of writers have argued.

Interestingly, in the Thurman study, 80 percent of the methods used to engage users were using moderators and/or pre-editing all of the content. This seems to make it difficult for UGC sections of news sites to scale to the level of the the “professional” news portions of their sites. Either news companies will have to give in and do away with most editing of UGC (and let the misspellings and low quality postings in) or a company needs to come up with an automated solution to edit UGC. Moderated UGC sites are just too expensive, Thurman’s study found.

There are a number of companies working on different aspects of socializing news, such as Mixx, Thoof, Digg and Reddit.

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