Archive for February, 2011

‘The demise of justifications for writing for free’

By Emily Fairbairn

Read Douglas Rushkoff’s insightful piece on the sale of the Huffington Post, perhaps the most prominent example the internet offers of the power of user generated content.

As a long-time contributor to HuffPo, Rushkoff writes that he was happy to write for free because it felt like he was part of a community and a more important purpose:

“There’s value being extracted from our labour, for sure, by advertisers or whoever, but the sense was always that we were writing for Arianna – contributing to an empire that spent its winnings bussing people to watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do their thing in Washington. Yes, there are compensating benefits – like getting links or hits or book sales – but it was a very soft quid pro quo based in a sense of shared purpose, and participation in a community beyond the mega-media-corporate sphere of influence.”

But now that HuffPo has been sold to AOL, Rushkoff is not so sure he will want to contribute anymore. So is this the key to user generated content?

When you ask someone to comment or contribute online, the likelihood is that you are asking them to do so for free. So they will need a good reason to expend their time and energy contributing to something which will undoubtedly in turn make money, somewhere, for somebody else.

If a user feels like they are part of something, like they are among other like-minded people, and that the site they are on MEANS something, then they will contribute. Content is rooted in community; you can’t create one without the other.

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User generated content “not journalism”

Patrick Smith

NBC digital chief says videos sent in by viewers is not journalism.

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Harder to post means better to read

Patrick Smith

A drop of 50,000 to 4000 in the number of reader comments might sound disastrous for a news site, but it’s all part of an eastern European paper’s plan to improve the quality of posts.

The most popular news site in the Czech Republic, Novink.cz, was being swamped with comments, often of a low quality and all needing time consuming moderation. Their solution was to make it much harder for users to post.

Anyone wishing to contribute, now needs to apply for a user name that will be sent to them by snail mail. Only then are you allowed to comment, with your name and town displayed. As a result the site has seen the number of page hits rise by a third due to an improvement in the quality of the content.

Other Eastern European sites are leading the way too. Pravda.sk, one of the leading dailies in Slovakia, ask readers to authenticate their identity through SMS.

With user comments always on the up, if western sites want comments to have real value they’re also going to have to think about making it a little harder to post.

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