Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content


Our sample included eight 24-hour news channels. This was a deliberate decision, as we knew anecdotally that national half-hour news bulletin programs do not use UGC as commonly as do large, international rolling news channels; we were already concerned that we would be watching hours of footage and find relatively small amounts. The sample was designed to include channels from around the world with an international audience (the target audience of the channel was cross-border, which therefore excluded major 24-hour channels like Sky News in the United Kingdom, for instance). Our intention was to analyze seven full days of output—168 hours from each of the eight channels, totaling 1,344 hours. The inbuilt repetition of rolling television news meant we didn’t want to analyze 24 hours of output from the same day, so we sampled eight hours from each day for 21 days. We also rotated the start time, so on the first day we recorded from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. GMT, on the second day from 4 p.m. to midnight GMT, and on the third from midnight to 8 a.m. GMT. This pattern was repeated for the 21 days. Recording began on Monday, November 25, and ended on Sunday, December 15, 2013.

Of the eight channels, surprisingly, none of them collect and archive their output (apart from the BBC for internal purposes). We therefore had to record the channels as they were broadcast. We achieved this through a variety of methods, but it did result in some outages caused by power cuts or live streams dropping out in the middle of the night. As a result, our final sample was 1,164 hours and 10 minutes (87 percent of our original target). We analyzed all 21 days of the recordings for all channels apart from Al Jazeera Arabic. For Al Jazeera Arabic we coded five days, chosen at random, from the 21-day sample. The reason for this was the difficulty of coding Arabic output without knowledge of the language. It was impossible to check whether the presenters or reporters were describing UGC in a particular way, or whether the captions on screen were relevant. The use of UGC was also significantly greater than any other channel we coded, and, in fact, even during five days of output from Al Jazeera Arabic there were more instances of UGC than from any other channel except Al Jazeera English over the 21 days. All eight websites were captured at 6 p.m. (local time for the location of their headquarters), for all 21 days. Only five days were analyzed,4Jazeera Arabic analysis. This was due to the sheer amount of content on each site. In total, we analyzed the content of 2,254 Web pages. The average number of links on each homepage every day was 56, although there was great variance. NHK World, for example, only contained links to an average of 13 news stories. CNN International, on the other hand, linked to an average of 119 stories from its homepage. Some of these stories contained up to 11 three- to five-minute videos on a single page, all of which had to be combed for UGC.