It’s the placement, stupid! Newspapers blow UGC

“It’s the economy, stupid” worked for Clinton.

“It’s the placement, stupid” would work for newspapers’ in their efforts to make user-generated content successful.

But most newspaper websites place (“bury”) user-created stuff in UGC ghettos nowhere near the subjects they’re blogging or vlogging about.

A typical newspaper website nav bar with theme sections and the blog area (or ghetto)

If newspapers treated their own content the way they treat users’ content, there would a newsroom revolt and website anarchy. There would be no “news,” “sports,” “entertainment,” or “opinion” tabs. Everything would go under two tabs: “our stuff” and “your stuff.”

Oh, yeah, reporters (and readers) would LOVE that.

Editors organize and promote their reporters’ and photographers’ best stuff on separate pages by category, displaying it well according to what they think is the best, most compelling stuff.

Not reader blogs. First they bury them, then they don’t promote them, then they gang’em all together with no rhyme or reason.

A post about a Little League game goes next to a post debating sex offenders in the neighborhood. A video post about someone’s kitty cat behaving strangely goes on the same page as a reader’s video of police beating protesters at a rally. Photos of dewy flowers go on the same page as reader pictures from a devastating fire.

That’s stupid.

What are editors thinking in their treatment of blogs? Do they really think that site visitors will go to a tab labeled “blogs” and just graze? They obviously don’t believe that holds true with their own high-quality work.

Put them in context, goshdarnit! And then promote them. People can’t read’em if they can’t find’em!

This absurd treatment reveals editors’ true feelings about user-created content: it’s not really worthy, but it is the rage so we’ll humor them but only allow them in their own little playground far away from our quality stuff.

Well, surprise, surprise: It’s not working.

Amy GahranAnd the lack of success of UGC on newspaper websites has people debating its merits. Amy Gahran (left) posted recently on PoynterOnline asking “Is Community News Just a Nice-to-Have?”

Some folks commenting on the piece are worried that the apparent lack of citizen enthusiasm for both generating and reading local content is an indication of all sorts of terrible things ranging from a failure of the education system to a failure of any “new” model of journalism.

If the editors put all their staff content under one tab and traffic plummeted, would they then decide their stuff wasn’t working, too?

Well, hell, we haven’t even given it a fair test yet!

First of all, most major metropolitan dailies don’t even allow non-staff bloggers on their sites, never mind in the pages of their papers (that’s stupid, too).

For those that do, we’ll have a much better, more accurate assessment of user-generated content when editors start putting it in the appropriate sections of their websites AND their newspapers.

They should keep the blog directories and most-recently posted blog lists for ease of finding a particular blog and for serendipity, but put goal #1 should be to put UGC stuff in context. And then promote it.

No promotion, no traffic. Put it in the paper and watch what happens. I did it at BostonNOW and it worked like a charm.

Until then, all this debate is almost pointless. It’s like saying a fishing lure doesn’t work when it’s only been tested in the bathtub!

6 responses to “It’s the placement, stupid! Newspapers blow UGC

  1. Pingback: According To John » Blog Archive » It’s the placement, stupid!

  2. Pingback: › links for 2008-06-18

  3. Fantastic post, Jon! and right on!

    The stuff I hear, often, is that *all* UGC is of low-quality, and *all* UGC is like the commentary on forums. Both are rather broad generalizations. Also, newspapers don’t get that sometimes people’s writing actually gets *better* when they know people are reading them (and they get some feedback and interaction from comments.)

  4. Tish, you hit it right on the head: That’s EXACTLY what I hear, too!

    Just last week an editor of a fairly large newspaper put a stake in the enthusiasm for incorporating UGC in their website by worrying aloud that it was all tripe and would wreck his newspaper’s reputation.

    And you’re right, too, about how writers improve when they get attention and feedback. That was my experience at BostonNOW where many of the 500 bloggers who signed up to appear on our site got better and better as we promoted them and made them mini-heroes in town.

  5. Thanks for sharing informative post

  6. I found your post useful and informative,thanks for sharing the post.

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