Perhaps one of the most surprising statistics was the relative absence of content around weather. People are often quick to dismiss UGC as simply something used to illustrate serious climate conditions. Apart from severe storms in the United Kingdom and the United States during the coding period, both of which prompted some UGC usage, especially online, weather-related UGC did not feature heavily. The weather-related disaster of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was classified as an individual story, not a weather story. Another surprising finding from this analysis was the absence of viral videos. A viral video, one that reaches over a million views on YouTube in a short period of time, typically involves a talented toddler, a cute animal, or a jaw-dropping sports stunt. In the period sampled, none of these types of
videos appeared online or on air. With the success of sites such as BuzzFeed and Upworthy, the power of viral videos to drive traffic has been well documented, 10a viral video section themselves. It was, therefore, surprising that this type of content did not feature in our sample period.11television, because only five days of content were analyzed, when we drilled down to the specific stories covered using UGC on television during the sampling frame, similar patterns are visible. TABLE 5: The Specific Stories Covered Using Some Form of UGC
Of the five stories with the most UGC on television (Syria, the Glasgow helicopter crash, Ukraine protests, Egypt protests, and Black Friday), four of the top five stories on the Web were the same, the exception being Black Friday coverage, which did not feature as prominently online. This is because Black Friday fell on November 29, which was not one of the five randomly sampled dates. Instead, the protests in Bangkok, Thailand, received coverage on four out of the five sampled days.
But these pure numbers alone do not accurately reflect what was happening over the three-week period. When stories are mapped against date, the resulting graph (FIGURE 3) shows the three clearest patterns from the research. FIGURE 3: Comparison of the Amount of UGC Used on Television Over the 21-day Period
FIGURE 4: The Top Stories Including UGC on the Web
Our interviews highlighted significant differences in the use of UGC between national broadcasters and 24-hour news channels. National bulletins are far less likely to use UGC. Many journalists working at national news organizations admitted to relying entirely on the agencies for content on international stories such as Syria, but did suggest they would ask their audiences to send in content during national stories. At this national level, there remained a concern about seeking out content from social networks, due to verification issues. Editors seemed more likely to trust content sent directly to the newsroom than content sourced from the social Web. Gudrun Gutt from ORF in Austria explained: One year ago we had flooding in Austria and we said, “We really have to start gathering content from the people in the flooded areas, because we couldn’t even reach them with our crews.” So we [put out calls to action] on Facebook, and during our news we put out messages and we asked them to send us our content. That is the type of UGC we gather. The type of UGC that we use mostly is the [material] which is delivered by Eurovision [News Exchange] and validated already. What we don’t have yet is a real, dedicated desk that validates UGC— let’s say, from Syria.