Online screaming matches tarnish the brand
(This is part II in a series on user generated content (UGC))
Any news organization looking to add high-value user generated content should be trying to get users to contribute facts and information as opposed to just their opinions. This is because most of the value in user generated content comes from the facts and most of the lack of value comes from opinions, which are not fact-based.
Editors need to start asking: Is this a story where the readers have something of value to add fact-wise and information-wise? Here are some cases where they do:
1. Snow picture after Montreal’s March 8th storm (click on photo to see full frame)
2. Videotape of Vancouver airport taser death
3. Rebecca Eckler’s lawsuit against Knocked Up director, Judd Apatow
When Eckler, the author of a book titled Knocked Up, announced she was suing Judd Apatow, the director of an unrelated film of the same name, for copyright infringement, readers of the blog, Reject the Koolaid, questioned Eckler’s claims to originality, giving many concrete examples of how she also could be seen to be “stealing” material — the same charge she labelled aginst Apatow.
Successful UGC depends on readers having special knowledge to give as in all the examples above. When readers have nothing to add in the way of information, the resulting UGC — or loser generated content as it’s also been called — can discredit not just itself, but the entire site where it appears.
The transformative power of digital communications lies not in any proven ability to increase the number of people with something interesting and newsworthy to say but rather in the ability to reach and communicate with those people who are most worth hearing from on a given topic. Just as journalists have always had to figure out what questions to ask what sources, now they need to think about what questions to ask what readers as well.
And then, as discussed in Part I of this UGC series, they need to organize the results so that the best information rises to the top.
Coming up: UGC and local search