The rise and rise of user generated content (UGC) by Simon Partington

I read an interesting piece of news from the Guardian Media group over the Christmas break, detailing some new roles within the business for an online local news project. Interestingly enough, this was something I was chatting to a friend about over a drink recently, and we both came to the same conclusion – it is inevitable.

The rise and rise of user generated content (UGC) has meant for some time that any old Tom, Dick or Harry can play at being a journalist. Whilst I’m not suggesting that this is a bad way to gather news, it does bring into question the future methods of news gathering for mainstream media.

As we hear of more and more outlets ceasing publication, reducing frequency or cutting staff, you have to wonder whether a decrease in journalists will lead to an increase in the ‘consumer editor’. Having pondered this in the past, I saw a textbook example of crowdsourcing that affirmed my thoughts instantly.

When the latest set of MPs’ expenses forms were released in December, the Guardian turned to its readers to determine the most scandalous claims, of the 458,000 documents published, for further investigation. Through passing this task to its readers, the Guardian effectively handed the editorial decisions across too – it became the public’s choice to determine what made a good story and what didn’t warrant attention.

What this shows is that the future of web, or perhaps a very large part of it, lies with involvement. The Guardian managed to turn 25,439 readers into citizen journalists through the power of web 2.0. The message? If you want influence, get involved!

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