Neil Thurman of City University has sent me the headlines of a study he has just completed on User interaction with news websites. It will be published in New Media and Society and is available from his University page.
Major news websites are struggling to make the most of readers'
contributions due to factors such as the costs of moderation and the
varying quality of user-generated content (UGC), whilst in return
readers are not fully engaging with the UGC initiatives.
Thurman found that 'popular' debates on the BBC News
website's 'Have Your Say' attracted contributions from just 0.05 per
cent of the site's daily unique audience, and one fifth the page views
of 'popular' news stories.
The research showed that the slow uptake of UGC by some editors was due
in part to worries over legal liabilities. Furthermore most
publications insisted on moderation because of concerns over: spelling,
grammar and decency; duplication; unbalanced views; and a lack of
newsworthiness amongst contributions. These issues had caused some
websites to drop UGC altogether.
I'm not surprised - interaction has always been a minority sport. Reading key news websites it's easy to see there is often a tight community of regular commenters who represent a fraction of the total readership. But this doesn't undermine the value of news organisations being open and responsive.
[UPDATE: Shane Richmond takes him to task for being out of date....and me for being uncritical!}
It took Steven Spielberg in Saving Private Ryan a cast of a thousand extras, huge budget and special effects. It took the BBC's Timewatch 3 blokes, an estate car, some props and a bit of creativity....