User-Generated Content In Mainstream Media?

    February 2, 2007

Content sharing sites such as YouTube have become effective platforms for many aspiring performers to showcase their talents to the world. It seems that now mainstream journalism is beginning to embrace the cultural phenomenon of user-generated content as the next step in the evolution of mainstream media.

Is citizen journalism truly a step in the right direction, though?

The New York Times seems to believe so, at least according to a panel discussion at this week’s SIIA Information Industry Summit. It was at the summit that a Times executive announced the publication’s plans to begin posting user-generated video content as early as next month.

While some may feel that this is a rousing endorsement for social media, lending a measure of validity to citizen journalism at large, the reasons behind the venture may be less than idealistic.

According to Times executive Nicholas Ascheim, the price tag for developing new video content can be quite steep.

“The most expensive thing is the journalists themselves. That’s why user-generated content is interesting,” says Ascheim in a Red Herring article covering the announcement.

So rather than paying hefty salaries to video journalists, the Times has decided to work out a micropayment system for user-generated submissions. So in essence, the company is outsourcing the workforce in the hopes or hiring laborers who will work for lower wages — a common business practice these days.

The motivation to simply lower costs isn’t exactly the staunch backing that proponents of citizen journalism have been hoping to receive from the mainstream press.

One has to be concerned whether or not the quality of reporting will degrade with the switch to a user-generated format. Obviously the Times will select only the choicest of submissions, but will the best of the masses measure up to professional standards?

Even with all the unknowns, however, this is still a journalism experiment worth watching, if only out of sheer curiosity.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.