User-generated content (UGC) is defined as any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasts, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites.
There is a long history of audience involvement in news production, from letters to the editor and readers’ photos, to radio and television phone-ins, and texts from viewers being shown at the bottom of the screen.
For many producers and editors, user generated content is seen – and often treated – as a continuation of this tradition. However, there are two key features of user generated content online that make it a qualitatively different proposition.
Firstly, unlike print and broadcast, on the web users do not need to send something to the mainstream media for it to be distributed to an audience: a member of the public can upload a video to YouTube with the potential to reach millions. They can share photos with people all over the world. They can provide unedited commentary on any topic they choose, and publish it, regularly, on a forum or blog.
In redeploying resources from print to online, newspapers not only have altered longstanding patterns of news production, but they also have opened the “gates,” in many cases, to user-generated content—enabling, if not always embracing, such things as comments, photos/videos, reader blogs, and even reader-assembled news articles. This evolving spectrum of user contributions to news content can be generically referred to as “citizen journalism” .What arises, then, is a tension for newspaper journalism in the 21st century: the practical logic of building participatory platforms to attract greater communities of users, for economic survival as well as to foster greater civic dialogue, against the professional logic of retaining authority over information flow.
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