Alternatives to ‘UGC’

I’ve started reading the research paper on User Generated Content undertaken by Cardiff University and the BBC. ugc@thebbc: Understanding its impact upon contributors, non-contributors and BBC News.

The study involved 10 weeks of ethnographic shadowing in BBC newsrooms, interviews with 115 journalists and 12 senior managers, analysis of a range of radio and television broadcasts and online content, plus a MORI poll of the British public, an online survey and 12 focus groups. Phew. 63 pages of report means I have not read all of it yet, but Robin Hamman (who was involved in sponsoring the project, has digested it here. Most of it is centered around the use of contributions from users around News, but there are a great many interesting general observations in there, and will give me much to chew over in coming days.

One conclusion instantly caught my eye though:

“The term User Generated Content is inappropriate and inadequate and should be replaced with Audience Material”

And the paper goes on to use ‘Audience Material’ (in preference to ‘UGC’) throughout. Now, I have as many problems with the term UGC as the next person, and it’s not a new discussion, but I don’t really think ‘Audience Material’ is any clearer.

Material? It’s no more specific than content really. Just another general word for stuff.

Audience? If any word is going to make people at the BBC think of its users as content consumers, to whom we must broadcast, that’s probably the one. Please let’s not reinforce the idea that users are an ‘audience’ or, still worse, ‘consumers’ (as in ‘consumer generated media’. Urgh).

I don’t really have a better alternatives, though I’ve always thought that user contributed content was slightly nicer, if only because I like the emphasis on contribution over generation.

Any others?

14 Comments

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  1. Kevin Anderson at the Guardian uses community generated content, Derek Powazek uses authentic media. I prefer Kevin’s term in general.

    The other option is to avoid the expression and write such that you don’t need to use it. Call them comments from members or participants; photos from people on the site etc. More wordy, but less us and them. Not very keen on Audience Material, very sniffy sounding.

    It is not easy language to come up with, but moving away from marketing speak with its overtones of military jargon and away from the anodyne UGC is for the better. I struggled to avoid user in my book, sometimes it is the right word, but I’ve used member or community as the general collectives.

    Comment by Gavin Bell — May 8, 2009 #

  2. You’re right. Audience material is terrible and worse than community generated content.

    It’d be nice to get rid of the slightly patronising tone, which is why I like “authentic media”, although it has the disadvantage that unless it’s explained it’s not clear what it is.

    How about “community sourced”. I think “generated” is part of the problem, because it suggests that it’s unusual. “Sourcing” something is what media companies do anyway, so sourcing is good. Community is definitely better than “User”, since if you say “user generated” or “user sourced”, you’re saying “whooo look at us, we’ve turned the normal relationship on it’s head, aren’t we great”, where the future I want is one where the normal relationship is bidirectional and there aren’t a group of people defined as “users” or as you say “consumers”.

    I suppose a problem with “community sourced” makes it sound as if the whole community has been involved which might not be the case.

    It’s true that even having a word for it distinguishes it as a special case from the ‘normal’ flow. When you’re a hub, you don’t distinguish between the different spokes, it’s only dams that distinguish between an upstream and a downstream. Given that, it’s going to be very difficult to say what you mean without being patronising.

    How about “spoke sourced”, although that’s just as opaque as “authentic media”.

    Crowd sourced has the benefit of being like a term already in use, although I think it still has a little of the patronising tone (“crowd” is a word with slightly negative connotations).

    My favourite so far is still “community sourced”, and then you can put whatever kind of ‘stuff’ is under discussion after it. media/video/film/content/story/comment/editorial/opinion/research….

    Comment by kybernetikos — May 8, 2009 #

  3. Having given it another minutes thought:

    Going into the future, content generated by people who do it for the fun of it should be the normal case. We should just call it “content”. Content generated by “professionals” will be an important but special case, *that’s* the one that should be distinguished.

    I would suggest “Professional generated content”, but that already suggests a hierarchy that I don’t believe in.

    How about “Mercenary generated content”? It’s a little mean, but it expresses the fact that going into the future it’s a special case, and it doesn’t suggest a nonexistent hierarchy of quality.

    Comment by kybernetikos — May 8, 2009 #

  4. Start dropping the acronym “LNM” into your conversations, blogposts, meetings, powerpoints about this… e.g. “If we do this right, we’re going to get a lot of LNM content…”, “All the LNM stuff should be right at the heart of this…”

    and then,

    when people finally ask what LNM stands for, tell them…

    “Love, not money”

    Comment by Matt — May 8, 2009 #

  5. @matt LNM is delightful

    Comment by Gavin Bell — May 8, 2009 #

  6. Count me as a vote for LNM (for as long as we need a special word for it).

    Comment by kyb — May 8, 2009 #

  7. NO. For “nutjobs’ oars”.

    Comment by James Wallis — May 8, 2009 #

  8. LNM is lovely.

    ‘Authentic Media’ is a tiny bit vomitous

    ‘Community Sourced Media/content/stuff’ is great.

    Doesn’t mercenary imply a financial motivation rather than an LNM particpation? :-)

    Comment by Roo — May 8, 2009 #

  9. I like ‘LNM’ too. But as long as we’re sticking with acronyms, shouldn’t that be ‘UGC’ rather than ‘UCG’ in the post title?

    Comment by Trippenbach — May 8, 2009 #

  10. Oops. Thanks, Mr T. Fixing the title (without changing the URL. Good URLs don’t change, even when they have a typo in them.)

    Comment by Roo — May 8, 2009 #

  11. > Doesn’t mercenary imply a financial motivation rather than an LNM particpation? :-)

    Exactly. I was suggesting that it’s the “professional” work that should be distinguished by calling it “mercenary sourced content”, and the stuff provided by those who do it for love should just be called “content”, because it will be the norm and not need some sort of word to distinguish it.

    Comment by kyb — May 8, 2009 #

  12. Ahh.. sorry, I’d totally misinterpreted that comment. Thanks for clearing it up.

    Comment by Roo Reynolds — May 8, 2009 #

  13. I like UGC fine, myself, for the time that we’re currently living in. The whole *point* of it is that (where UGC is enabled) there isn’t a distinction between the “users” and the “content creators”, because the users can create / generate / contribute content. It makes nicely clear, in just three little words, that anyone who uses the system can also generate content for it. Eventually this will be true in the default case and we can just say “content”, but that’s not where we are today.

    “Audience material” is just awful; it conveys nothing at all. (“I don’t think he’s audience material; he doesn’t jump up and down and scream enough.”)

    Rather than looking for a name for the stuff itself, how about we look for a good name for the affordances that make it possible? “Universal creation powers”? “Everyone’s a creator”? I do like “Love not money” :) but it tends to suggests that there’s something inferior about doing it for money, and I don’t think we need to suggest that…

    Comment by David Chess — May 12, 2009 #

  14. > Universal creation powers

    Talking about the affordances is a good idea.

    > suggests that there’s something inferior about doing it for money, and I don’t think we need to suggest that.

    I don’t think it, and maybe we don’t need to, but I’m not against making that suggestion, simply as a way of balancing the current inaccurate hierarchy of quality.

    Comment by kybernetikos — May 13, 2009 #

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