Publishers using user-generated content (UGC) are not simply going for the cheap option, Neil McIntosh, head of editorial development at Guardian.co.uk, told the audience at last night’s New Media Knowledge (NMK) ‘What happens to newspapers?’ event.
McIntosh was responding to suggestions made by the National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) Tim Gopsill that publishers were using more UGC to reduce costs.
“UGC is not cheap. It’s many things, but it’s not cheap. It’s extremely expensive to nurture it and to make it something worthwhile. My heart sinks when I hear the union saying that journalists are going to be replaced with UGC,” said McIntosh.
Costs of publishing UGC, such as photos and comments, rapidly and training staff to moderate and contribute to discussions online are often overlooked in the debate over whether publishers should be using it, he added.
Speaking specifically about the Guardian’s new belief channel on its Comment is Free (CiF) platform, McIntosh said that without proper moderation and nurturing, the paper ‘might as well be lighting the blue touch paper and running’.
When interacting with UGC, in particular comments, blog posts and CiF submissions, it is about ‘encouraging journalists to write the kind of things that kickstart a debate in the right direction’, he said.