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Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

Editorial filters add value to UGC

All authors are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Original journalism is expensive to produce and can be hard to sell. This is one of the attractions of user-generated content (UGCUGC (User-Generated Content)Content created by the public at large, generally not professionally edited,…

UGC has received a fair bit of criticism, some of it deserved. If quantity outweighs quality, there can be too much noise to filter through. Even so, every once in a while, gems are found. Leveraging those gems, those quality users, is the key to effectively using UGC.

UGC might look free, but isn’t

The purpose of leveraging UGC is not simply to offer an outlet of expression, it’s also a way to create an avenue for deeper engagement with the discovery and creation of a story. But just because users are contributing content to your site, it doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be an editorial process; it’s not always easy for an algorithm to weed out people who contribute negatively or provide a distraction to healthy debate and discussion, but human editors do a good job of sidelining the irrelevant. This means that while UGC may seem free, a consistent source of directed content generally has some management overhead.

Management overhead exists along a spectrum, often depending on the level of direction you want to give contributors. It’s possible to get free quality UGC, but the subject matter is likely to be random – people don’t mind creating content and giving it away, as long as they can decide what they write about. The more specific you are in setting the subject of the contribution, the less likely it is that your audience will have an expert on the subject who is in the mood to write about it. However, some online sites such as Quora, Medium, and Svbtle are able to cherry pick contributed content because of existing networks.

Filtering processes for quality content

One successful model for building a business around UGC is to have a strong filtering process and editorial layer. It’s becoming more common for sites to limit the involvement of users on the site until their reputation has increased. This filtering process can even be done by the users themselves. As a user gains more credibility in the community – possibly by making short but high-quality comments – access and control is unlocked; they gain the ability to write in-depth comments, moderate content on the site, or self-publish. These types of system separate the quality contributor from the also-ran very effectively.

Then there’s the issue of audience. The bigger the audience you offer, the easier you’ll find it to attract quality free talent. If you have a small audience it can be a chicken-and-egg scenario: you need quality contributions to attract a large audience, but you need a large audience to attract quality contributions. To overcome this, one strategy that can work is to build a small cohort of quality contributors with the promise of marketing the cohort’s content.

But it’s time-consuming (another form of cost) to build an audience when most audience members haven’t built up enough credit to be able to completely participate in the community.

Leveraging contributions for profitability

As a community of contributors is developed, it’s important to leverage them, without taking advantage of them. Monitoring trending topics and cross-referencing them against the interests of community members is key to getting relevant content from contributors. A conventional editorial process is also helpful in cleaning up copy and refining content so that it more effectively communicates ideas. All of this comes at a cost in staff time, which leads to the importance of monitoring every single touchpoint with a piece of content by a staff member.

Simply taking into consideration the salaries of editors is not enough. A high-level view of the operation doesn’t help improve processes. What is critical is a detailed view of the cost-benefit; the ability to see how much time has been invested, and continues to be invested, throughout the life of the story. This data needs to be laid against the consumption data – pageviews, time on pagePageA document having a specific URL and comprised of a set of associated files. A…

Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to see whether UGC can contribute to your business.

Article by Syed Karim

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