Tag Archives: photos

UGC Snow Story

As the snow begins to fall journalistic cliché blankets Britain. We’re a nation obsessed with talking about the weather, yet we still manage to be embarrassingly unprepared for it. The snow barely has time to settle before the news headlines ‘treacherous’ travel conditions and dangerously low grit supplies.

This is when the role of the citizen journalist really comes into it’s own. When it’s impossible for the reporters and TV crews to get to the snow-scene unscathed, it’s up to snow’s victims and enthusiasts to do the storytelling.

Screengrab from Sky - Your Photos. Photo by Nina Power - "Frosty the snowman and friend Nathan. Taken in the back garden

The BBC UGC Hub receives thousands of stills and videos on the days it snows, interestingly far more than during heat-waves, and the Channel 4 Facebook page has set up an album especially for its viewers snowy scenes.

We no longer have to rely on meteorologist’s changeable predictions alone, but on those than can physically see the snowfall from their window. Twitter users can create a live snow map of the UK by tweeting their postcode and snow rating to the hashtag #uksnow. Ben Marsh, #uksnowmap’s creator, says that from November 23rd to December 31st the site notched up half a million hits and 85,000 reports from 150,000 tweets.

"Heathrow T3 looks like a war zone - debris, foil blankets & camping passengers" @PaulLomax

But UGC’s finest snow hour came this weekend when BAA banned TV crews from entering Heathrow airport during the snow chaos that caused thousands of passengers to miss their flights. Newsrooms began calling out to passengers for news on their experiences. Along with Flickr, Twitter and YouTube there was soon an influx of shocking stills and videos of people camping out in foil blankets – more akin to a warzone than an airport terminal! Some posted videos of themselves as reporter and interviewer, questioning other passengers about their experiences.

BAA might have been able to keep out the professional broadcasters, but what difference did it make? They underestimated the growing power and proficiency of the citizen journalists, who proved more than capable of getting their story told to thousands of viewers and listeners.

When it comes to a snow story UGC tells it best.

"Not a toilet seat but a plane window and yes, that is snow" @DaisyPoppets



Engagement, identity and user-generated content

The undisputed winner of this year’s Guardian g2 calendar is a 17 year old called Hannah Porter. Her entry, a close-up photo of her face with g2 painted across it, is the front cover of the calendar and g2’s twitter profile picture.

The Face of G2 by Hannah Porter

The Face of g2 b Hannah Porter

She explains the image in a caption underneath:

“I chose to use my face as a canvas because g2 is about two things: what it is made up of and who reads it. And anyone can be a reader, from a middle-aged person to a teenager like me”.

A near-perfect summation of what UGC helps define and reinforce, namely, a media organisation’s identity arrived at through its audience. Building up that inter-relationship is crucial.

The task was to:

“send in your photographs on the theme of G2… You could show an issue on location, spot the letters in your lunch, or find G2 recreated in nature”.

The expectation on the user here is big – they’re asked to spend time, thought and artistic endeavour creating their image. It’s a high level of engagement,  a top scorer on the graph that measures how much effort is required in order for a user to participate. This is far above asking for a thumbs up or down.

And the respondents were true to this. One waited (maybe hours) for birds to settle on a snowy roof (then photoshopped the image into full obeisance). Another shaved the letters into their hair, and a third made the calendar the subject of a family discussion, kids included.

An image of a gravestone reading: Here lies Harriet Bird 1986 - 2011 She loved the Guardian's g2

A dedicated reader, deceased

This reinforces the point – UGC here is not about giving a new angle on a national issue. It’s about telling the story of g2, and building a brand identity that is open, diverse, democratic and creative. The aim of the calendar is to help g2 penetrate as far as it can into its readers’ lives,  make it something they think about, obsess over, define themselves through.

Not all UGC works like this, but the best helps establish a strong and faithful relationship between media outlet and audience.

Doesn’t that give you a warm glowing feeling inside? Happy Christmas.


Movember: why it works for UGC

November plays host to Movember, a campaign cooked up by a bunch of Aussies in 2003. The idea is to grow a moustache for a month to raise money for prostrate cancer charities.

Moustaches have enjoyed a trendster renaissance recently – the youtube sensation ‘Being a Dickhead’s Cool’ recommends aspiring East London hipsters should “get a moustache and a low-cut vest”.

A Movember moustache

A Movember moustache

But Movember has also provided a perfect opportunity for media outlets to fill their pages with UGC.

The ‘him’ channel on msn.co.uk has a deep zoom gallery that invites users to upload photos of their moustaches’ progress, or just moustaches in general.

BBC Cornwall have been a bit more rigorous in their approach, a slideshow of developing ‘taches that all seem to be genuinely for the Movember cause.

Upmarket barbers Murdock’s is officially partnered with the campaign – their blog gets customers involved and keeps them coming back.

Across the pond they’re doing it too – in The Edmonton Journal, msn.com’s Today homepageThe ProvinceBest Health magazineLeader-post, the Calgary Herald and Sony Ericsson’s APPtitude lab.

Why is it so good for UGC?

  • Because Movember is a free ride!  It’s a user-led campaign that get as many people involved as possible. Your website or magazine can jump on the back on it and fill pages with photos of moustaches, all the hard work of getting people to actually grow them already done for you.
  • As numbers of photos in the galleries build up, the campaign gathers mo’mentum (haha). And after all, charity is all about sharing.
  • You know your audience. It’s definitely a man thing. Although msn.co.uk’s user profile is 57% female, 43% male, their ‘him’ channel sits alongside ‘cars’, ‘games’ and ‘movies’ channels that pull in a dedicated male audience. You know exactly who you are targeting and if you are a male-focused platform, you can be confident you’ll get a response.
  • It has a responsive audience. It’s young and fun and fashionable, fitting in perfectly with a plugged-in, technology-savvy generation who are happy to share details about their lives online.
  • It’s funny. Nobody really takes moustaches seriously – they’re an ironic gesture that everybody can enjoy. Sharing a photo of yourself with a silly handlebar moustache online shows you are laid-back and approachable – who wouldn’t want to join in with that?
  • It’s relatively easy. The popularity of Movember stems largely from the fact that it raises money without demanding too much from its participants. Not shaving for a month is hardly the same as running a marathon. So users can join the campaign easily, and share it easily, by simply uploading a photo.

The creators of Movember must be very pleased that so many media organisations have decided to trumpet their story. And media organisations must feel rather happy that they’ve got a load of fun content that people want to share filling up their pages.