Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content

Definition of User-Generated Content

The phrase “user-generated content” is a catchall that can mean different things to different people, even those working in the same newsroom. For the purposes of this study, we define UGC as photographs and videos captured by people who are not professional journalists and who are unrelated to news organizations. It does not include comments (either posted underneath a news article or posted to social networks) integrated into coverage. What We Didn’t Find Before we launch into our main research discoveries, we wanted to highlight what we found in relation to some of the assumptions commonly shared about the integration of UGC: that it is only used because it is a cheap way to source pictures and that news is being dumbed down by viral videos of talented pets and amusing babies. Neither of these assumptions is true. Managers shared with us the cost of resourcing the integration of UGC into their output, in terms of discovery, verification, and clearing rights. Not one newsroom considered UGC a cheap alternative. In terms of viral video, over the three weeks of our sample period, there was only one video that could be described as “viral” and it only appeared online. Not only were viral videos almost nonexistent, but there was also a very low percentage of weather content (commonly thought of as a news magnet) used by the broadcasters we studied. So the assumption that UGC is all about weather and pets appears not to be true. Broadcasters might receive the most content around these subjects, but they’re not using it very much.