“What is happening is…a revolution in the way young people are accessing news. They don’t want to rely on the morning paper for their up-to-date information. Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them. They want control over their media instead of being controlled by it.” – Rupert Murdoch 2005
What is user generated content? It’s any photo, video or piece of text that has appeared in the news that was captured or written by a member of the public, as opposed to a journalist or reporter. There have been several events over the last decade that have pushed this revolution in news reporting along: September 11, Bali bombings, the tsunami and London bombings. Many of the London bombings photos that were splashed all over the front pages of the paper and found throughout media websites were taken by the public. It is events like these that have helped encourage the use of ugc.
Ugc gives readers the news they want to read about, and gives them more control over what is actually in the news. The existence of ugc may help overcome some problems that cross-media ownership can cause, such as that of large conglomerates controlling most of the world’s media, and in turn controlling most of the world’s news. Ugc provides the opportunity for independent bodies, such as South Korea’s ohmynews.com to give a more objective approach to the news.
Ucg and participatory journalism is making news more accessible, both in terms of the medium used to view it, where and when you can access it. The fact that the public can either blog or text a breaking news story to the media on the spot has also changed the news cycle. Where traditionally there was morning and evening news, now the news cycle must be 24 hours in order to keep up with ugc.
A by-product of ugc is that it is encouraging audience fragmentation as more types of media become available, provoking consumers into choosing that which is most convenient for them. As Quinn says in “Ugc and the changing news cycle” that “if it is possible to receive the news any time, audiences tend to break into distinct groups based on factors such as interests, income, age and location”.
So how is the media supposed to deal with this “revolution”? Will it get to the point where journalists become redundant? Well, I don’t think so. There will always be the need for journalists to report on the specialist news like finance, sport and politics. But when it comes to hard news, it seems as though the media is responding with a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude. Murdoch has reacted by saying “…the business models of existing media players will have to respond,” and that the challenge his company faced was to deliver news in ways which consumers wanted it. In other words, send the journalists out into society with a mobile phone that can capture video footage. Paul Horrocks, Editor-in-Cheif to the Manchester Evening News agrees with this and says “if to information overload we add the fragmentation of media consumption, the drop of advertising revenues and the increase in competition then…we must reinvent our product to be more competitive and to satisfy our consumers”.
So ugc and citizen journalism, or participatory journalism, has certainly played a big part in revolutionising the media. In such a big change, however, I can’t help wondering: what comes next?