Tow Center Releases Phase 1 of User-Generated Content Tow Report

User-generated content (UGC) was on-air and online every day.  It was used when journalists couldn’t get there, or there was just nothing else.  Yet, very little of it is credited to its original source. These were some of the main findings of the first phase of our research into user-generated content on 24-hour news channels published by the Tow Center today.

“Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content in TV News and Online Output” is the work of Tow Fellows Claire Wardle and Sam Dubberley, along with research assistant Pete Brown. The research focused on output from eight channels: Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera English, BBC World, CNN International, euronews, France 24, NHK World and TeleSUR. In total the researchers analyzed 1,100 hours of TV output and 2,254 pages from the respective online websites.

READ Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content in TV News and Online Output

The data collection was conducted over a three-week period at the end of 2013 and covered stories such as the on-going Syrian conflict, the death of Nelson Mandela, protests in Ukraine and Thailand and a helicopter crashing into the roof of a Scottish pub. Three main questions are asked in the report:

  1. How much UGC does the 24-hour news industry use online and on-air?
  2. In which types of stories is the 24-hour news industry most likely to use UGC?
  3. How does the 24-hour news industry use UGC?

i) Are photographs or videos more likely to be used?
ii) Is the content described as UGC?
iii) Is the uploader of the content credited?

These questions allow two main conclusions to be drawn at this phase of the research. First, UGC is used by news organizations daily, but only when other content is not available to tell the story. Second, news organizations are poor and inconsistent in labeling content as UGC and crediting the individual who captured the content.

Interesting results could also be drawn from a comparison between television and Web output – with more similarities than differences across the two. However, the best use of UGC was online, mostly because the Web provides opportunities for integrating UGC into news output like live blogs and topic pages.

The complete report – which will incorporate the results of in-depth interviews with over 60 global news managers and editors – is to be launched at the Tow Center’s Quantifying Journalism: Data, Metrics, and Computation on May 30, 2014.

Claire Wardle and Sam Dubberley are Tow Fellows working on the Tow Center’s AMATEUR FOOTAGE: A Global Study of User Generated Content in TV News Output at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.  The Single-Subject News Network is a project made possible by generous funding from both The Tow Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The goal of AMATEUR FOOTAGE: A Global Study of User Generated Content in TV News Output is a global study into the integration of User Generated Content (UGC) in news output in television broadcasts and online. Follow Claire Wardle on Twitter @cward1e and follow Sam Dubberley on Twitter @samdubberley. To learn more about the Tow Center Fellowship Program, please contact the Tow Center’s Research Director Taylor Owen:

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