Top 5 Reasons Newspapers and Media Outlets Should Engage with User-Generated Content


What’s user-generated content? Here at Submittable, we don’t really love the word ‘user’, but the term is used to describe any kind of content that is created by your users, or audience, for your publication or media outlet. Examples would be hikers taking pictures of a sunrise and emailing them to their local newspaper or readers taking videos on their phones of a car chase and sending them to their news channel. Submittable clients like Betabrand and the Rachael Ray Show are currently using our platform, respectively, to collect clothing design ideas and to receive cooking videos from aspiring chefs who want to win a culinary school Tuition Competition. The NCAA uses us to receive fan videos and pictures of sporting events. We use Submittable ourselves to collect FailBetter Videos.

So why would you do that? Our business development lead, J.R. Plate, recently gave us an overview of the top 5 reasons newspapers and media should engage with user-generated content.

1. Your audience can provide a constant stream of news stories 

A news channel can get user-generated content by asking viewers for videos, photos, and news tips.

A news channel can get user-generated content by asking viewers for videos, photos, and tips.

Your staff and contributing writers are indispensable, but they can’t be everywhere at once and they can’t know each angle of every story. Citizen journalism, or content provided by your audience and other members of the public, allows you to have an endless stream of news stories and tips. Why have one journalist covering a story when you could have ten? With over 71% of the US population owning smartphones, the ability to record photos and video has never been easier. YouTube and Facebook have made it easy to share this content with friends and family, but with Submittable, news and media outlets can easily accept, review, and monetize this raw content. You’ll get multiple perspectives and authentic content to further engage your audience.

2. Connect with your readers and viewers

Your readers and viewers love you. But maybe less than you think. What they do love is when you highlight people from your community whom they personally know or can connect with. Many of us get excited when we see someone we know on the news (and hopefully it’s not because they’re an axe murderer). Imagine if that story, photo or video wasn’t about a reader or viewer but was actually provided by him or her. Your other readers and viewers will instantly recognize this person and share that content with more readers and viewers, increasing your reach.

3. Control and own your content

Many organizations rely on social media to get user-generated content. Although these platforms are useful, it’s important to note their limitations. The biggest limitation to getting content from social media sites is your ability to control and own the content. For example, if a reader or viewer uploads a video to YouTube and you want to use it for a story, technically you have no right to the video; YouTube owns the content. With Submittable’s submission manager platform, you have full control and rights to your own content. All the data and content belong to you. This is huge.

You could use winter photos from your audience to create a slideshow. (Photo courtesy of Asta So)

Weather photos from viewers and readers make for engaging content that could potentially include ads (Photo courtesy of Asta So)

4. Monetize your content

Getting more content from your audience means that you’ll have more opportunities to monetize your content. This past winter, with the historic storms in Eastern Canada and the United States, much of the user-generated content in newspapers and media outlets was weather photos and videos. If you owned and had rights to that content, you could monetize it through advertisements. For instance, you could create a photo slideshow of sidewalks that need to be shoveled and reach out to a local hardware store that wants to advertise at the end of the slideshow.

5. Increase traffic to your website

With increased content from your readers and viewers, you’ll have more content that generates traffic on your website and other digital properties. This additional content will increase your audience engagement, and visitors to your website will stay longer, lowering your website’s bounce rate and overall making for website statistics that will generate that happy-fuzzy feeling from potential advertisers.

Asta So

Asta So lives in Missoula, MT, with her husband, dog, and cat. She is Submittable’s Chief of Staff.