You might not think The Sun, with all its reliance on puns and tits, is the right kind of place for UGC. But hidden away in the dark corners of the website is the Readers’ Tips page, a brilliant example of all that UGC can be – good, bad, ugly and funny.
So the y2p team chose tips to explain what works and what doesn’t – you can click on the images to see an expanded view.
This perfectly exemplifies the Sun’s attitude – a bit cheeky and thoroughly down-to-earth. This is something that journalists would never have the inventiveness to come up with, and it’s a nice insight into the slightly peculiar lives that the readers lead. But I don’t think I’ll be taking their advice on this one…
This made me literally laugh out loud because 1) it sounds ridiculous 2) it’s the type of thing I would do and think is perfectly sensible and 3) I’m kicking myself I didn’t think of it first. Don’t worry though, I’ll be doing it from now on. What I like about this page is that the postees aren’t afraid of sounding silly and the readers obviously like picking up the tips. Just remember to turn the straighteners off.
This is such a practical suggestion, the kind of which you’d only get from another punter who’s not trying to sell you anything. I can’t imagine DIY websites suggesting it. This UGC works for me, freely sharing information and not expecting anything in return.
This UGC is pants! These white-knickered buttocks could only appear on a website for the toosh-loving Sun. They’d be considered too bad taste for a more sober news platform, and they’re right. Secondly the suggestion is utterly useless – why would you stick your post-it note somewhere you can’t even see it, why not post on the fridge? I’ve got a feeling we’re witnessing the more exhibitionist UGC here – Karen seems confident enough about her bottom to want to show it off.
This typifies the best and worst of UGC. While there can be no doubt of the deterrent effect of a snake in one’s flowerbed, Roy’s effort lacks the key details which a professional journalist would give. For example, to say nothing of potential ethical conundrums, is the breed of snake a determining factor? Ought the snake to be on duty full time, or would the aroma of a part time snake be sufficient? Oughtn’t Roy to include a more expansive discussion of the necessary fencing arrangements round the flowerbed? In short, this tip is a clear indication of UGC’s questionable reliability.
UGC is about making your readers feel like they are a part of your publication and share in a community of readers. The value of the tips is not in the suggestions themselves, but the sharing process. I think it’s important that we see pictures of the readers and their families on the page. You might not bake your flapjacks in a bun tin, but it’s hard not to be touched by darling little Katie.
The journalist’s pot of UGC gold looks likely to be enlarged after the Commons Procedure Committee decreed that MPs should be allowed to tweet in the Commons chamber. After they were initially banned in January, the committee recommended that smartphones and tablets should be allowed (but not laptops as they take up too much space), provided that they are on silent and used in a way which does not ‘impair decorum’. The Commons will vote on the measure within the next two months.
The move hasn’t been without controversy. James Gray, Tory MP for North Wiltshire, argued that excessive use of electronic devices would lead to a ‘worrying change of atmosphere’ in the chamber, in which members weren’t properly concentrating on the debates. But the potential effects for MPs and journalists (who can tweet from the public gallery) could run far deeper than that.
Where does it go from here?
According to the report, 225 MPs now use Twitter. One of the committee’s main supporting arguments is that it will bring parliament a whole new audience, in the form of hundreds of thousands of MPs’ Twitter followers. Moreover, it seems likely that many more MPs will feel compelled to begin tweeting; if so many are communicating with their followers/constituents directly, those passing up the opportunity will appear increasingly distant.
This means that a huge new source of UGC material becomes available – MPs may tweet their reaction to others’ comments, and conversely may respond to journalists’ tweets questioning their behaviour. Useful too will be the large amount of constituent-MP tweeted discussions during an actual debate which might have a significant influence on the MP’s vocal comments and eventual voting.
An example of Twitter hosting co-debates was seen in the Australian parliament, where MPs have always been unrestricted. Back in 2009, a row flared up between the Speaker and MP Peter Dutton, in which the latter tweeted criticisms about the Speaker’s apparent favouring of the opposite party. (The Speaker warned that tweets were not covered by parliamentary privilege).
Shifting the Debate
This shows that Twitter has the power to lift a debate from the chamber and into cyberspace, allowing anyone – MPs, lobbyists, journalists – to join in. Again it is another example of the traditional top-down media role being undermined. Should the committee recommendations be adopted, parliamentary reporters will have to pay as much attention to the cyber debate as to the Commons floor itself. This raises tricky issues for a Speaker trying to adjudicate without looking at his/her own device. But as a whole new world of co-debate, involving anyone and everyone, is invited into the chamber, there are rich UGC pickings indeed. Truly democratic, and virtually uncontrollable, no journalist worth their salt will be able to ignore this new dynamic.
your2pence spoke to Stewart Purvis, former Content and Standards Partner at the UK regulator Ofcom, about how UGC is monitored and regulated.
y2p: How is UGC regulated by Ofcom?
SP: The crucial point is that the only regulation of UGC by Ofcom is when it is rebroadcast by a licensed broadcaster because then it has to meet the Broadcasting Code. In its regulation of licensed TV services Ofcom does not recognise any difference between UGC and any other content. It all has to conform to the Broadcasting Code.
“These standards [section 319 of the Communications Act] apply to all broadcast material whatever its origin: whether material is user-generated content or derived from more traditional sources.” Ofcom
y2p: Have there been any interesting cases when Ofcom has had to step in?
SP: There was an interesting test case when a mostly online content service called Sumo transmitted some of their content on Sumo TV and got into trouble. I think Sumo TV is the only case.
y2p: Should there be a regulator of non rebroadcast online content? Ofcom/PCC etc…
SP: There is a regulator of online content which is deemed to be ‘TV-like’. The regulator is called ATVOD [which regulates the editorial content of UK video on demand services].
SP: For content which is not ‘TV-like’ and that is most online content, there is no official regulator although some sites have their own standards requirements e.g. the ‘explicit’ warnings on i-tunes.
y2p: Will we see any changes in the future?
SP: The next Communications Act expected in 2015 will have to address the issues raised by media covergence.
This week Kerry McCarthy became the first-ever MP to read her speech off a tablet computer during a Commons budget debate. They seem to be slowly embedding themselves into our society, but what of tablets’ contribution to UGC? Of course, their portabilty enhances the opportunity to interact with news while on the go, and at the source of the action.
But it’s not all smooth sailing.
I have an HTC Android Desire phone, which has a camera/video camera and voice recorder. The Android Sky News app I’ve downloaded has a direct UGC facility. Should I happen to capture something juicy, I can touch the app’s ‘Your Report’ tab, which enables me to send the material straight to Sky News, with the option of adding a comment. Fast. Free. UGC.
The Missing Element and its Knock-On Effects
But the much-vaunted Sky News iPad app – launched on March 17th 2011 – lacks this capability, principally because the first iPad lacks that integral part of our online experience: a camera. The iPad apps for CNN and BBC are therefore similarly constrained. New though they are, all have yet to be updated to fit the more sophisticated iPad 2 which, thank goodness, has front and rear-facing cameras. Yet other tablets have had cameras from the beginning, like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. This means their users can take advantage of the Sky News for Android app’s ‘Your Report’ feature, as well the CNN ‘iReport’ function which is very similar.
The first iPad then was focused around the consumption of media, rather than the creation of media, and the limiting effects are still evident in its apps. So, why did Apple take this seemingly regressive step in the first place? Well, when announcing the coming of the iPad, Steve Jobs was very clear that it wasn’t supposed to be just a beefed-up version of the iPhone. (Because actually it’s more a beefed-up version of the iPod Touch). Nothing wrong with vehicles of traditional, mainstream media of course. But for £399 I can’t help feeling those early iPad pioneers were short-changed.
Since the iPad still holds 73% of the tablet market (according to an International Data Corporation report in the last quarter of 2010), its lack of camera represented a significant dint in the progress of UGC. Now that this big drawback has been addressed, let’s hope the apps catch up!
Posted in Home, UGC in action
Tagged android, cameras, citizen journalism, iPad, Sky, tablets, technology, UGC, video, your report
On Friday 21st of March Brits donned their Red Noses and raised a record-breaking £74 million for charity. your2pence asked the Twitterati how they were being “funny for money”.
Eventually we got this reply from Shaun Lee Smith
@shaunleesmith is dressed in a morphsuit whilst doing a live-tweet session! (10p a tweet, at the rate of 40 tweets an hour)
The response on Twitter improved once we began refining and localising our request. When we hashtagged #Berkshire we received this photo of two school girls from Maidenhead.
@vik1toria send us this photo of Josephine and Jocelyn. They fundraised for Comic Relief by wearing their pyjamas and making/selling their own red noses at First Platt Primary in Maidenhead
But the real response came from Facebook. Once I had updated my status with our request I received numerous messages about everything from cake sales to sponsored beard-growing competitions in aid of Comic Relief. I was even sent photos:
Ollie Lee, Will Moore-Kelly, Bobby Archer, Matt Mills and Luke McNickle Zulu style invasion on a lesson at Reading Grammar School raised £10 for Comic Relief
Molly Seymour's choice of black cab today...
Why is it that our request for User Generated Content was more successful on Facebook than Twitter? Is it because the request came from myself, rather than a little-know (but utterly fantastic) news blog, and went out to a small network of friends and associations? The Twitterati couldn’t be more obliging with their Twitpics and Vimeo Vids when it comes to a shout-out from Jon Snow, The Guardian or even their own locally established news generator. Despite the openness and easy accessibility of the net, it seems as though people want to know and trust media outlets before they are willing to contribute to them.
Last week your2pence set itself a challenge – to get people across the web to contribute to our website as a UGC news platform.
In the wake of the news that Japan had been shaken by an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear explosion, we solicited people on Twitter to share their pictures/stories with us, using all the relevant trending hashtags:
Having received no response, we then tried tweeting – in what we hope was accurate/legible – Japanese…
Eventually we received a response from @7e313 in a series of tweets:
It is interesting to discover that there are areas of the devastation in Japan not covered by the media, and that the press is in some way restricted. However, we tried to ask this contributor further information and didn’t get a reply. With this information we’d opened up a can of worms in terms of unanswered questions.
Meanwhile we’d also got in touch with Vic.Bai who had posted photos of his experience of the earthquake on Flickr. He’s an exchange student studying in Fukushima Japan. After the earthquake he was stuck in Fukushima, unable to escape:
People with no home sleep in the supermarket
The food for us
Finally, the Chinese Embassy in Niigata, Japan, sent us 6 big buses. On that bus I wrote “Help” in Japanese on the window.
Encouraging people to share their experiences with us in the midst of this crisis has proven difficult on several accounts – there is a language barrier (most of the Twitpics have been posted in Japanese), many parts of Japan are currently experiencing limited internet/phone coverage, and the fact that this is currently the leading international story means we are a needle-in-a-haystack in the vast amount of material being published by the established news platforms.
We decided to try our luck with a news story a little closer to home…