Audio: An inside look at how AP uses UGC

By Ken Romano

We sit down with our social media editor to discuss the growth of user-generated content and how AP incorporates it into its coverage.

People around the world lined up last month to buy the new iPhone 6s from Apple, the latest smartphone to further the proliferation of mobile devices. We learned last year that there are now more gadgets than humans, and that developing countries are becoming increasingly connected.

So what does this mean for news organizations, or even anyone looking for content?

“Everybody has right in their pocket everything they need to capture the visuals, sounds and events that happen around them,” AP’s social media editor, Eric Carvin, said. “And at the same time, the social networks are making it easier and easier to share visual content in particular.”

Listen to my full conversation with Eric Carvin about the growth of UGC and how AP incorporates it into its coverage:

“Everybody has right in their pocket everything they need to capture the visuals, sounds and events that happen around them.”

Most of the growth in user-generated content, or UGC, has come in the past five years and stemmed from the Arab Spring uprising in the Middle East. That story and others prompted us to look at Twitter and other social platforms as sources of content that could help inform our own newsgathering process.

Accuracy is our top priority here at AP, and UGC can be challenging to verify. We understand that our customers might use a piece of content from someone else if they get it first, but we also strive to be the definitive source during times of uncertainty – a similar verification process takes place during elections, as well.

Speed is also important, obviously, and over time we’ve made some adjustments to become more efficient in our UGC process. In addition to our reporters incorporating it into their beat, we have dedicated staff who vet content as we find it and obtain the rights for distribution in addition to publication.

“We feel that it is our job as AP to go through the entire process and make sure that we’re confident that something is reliable and that we have the right rights to be able to use it,” Carvin said. “We want our customers to feel like, ‘This is done. AP’s got this.’ And so our customers can then do whatever they need to do with it.”

With everyone now firmly entrenched in this digital era, we’ve seen our customers using UGC in a variety of ways, from photos on front pages to videos on websites as a way to provide different angles of a story. It provides the man-on-the-street perspective as well as analysis and/or commentary from an AP journalist.

“‘This is done. AP’s got this.’”

“And one of the things we’re exploring is potential new delivery mechanisms to share this type of content with our customers in a way that they can use it more directly in their social platforms and their digital spaces,” Carvin said. “And to be honest, we’re eager to hear what people want along those lines. We’re happy to take feedback on that.”

One thing we have heard feedback on is the importance of providing local content. Many of our customers cover hard news and legislation in their state, but aren’t always there to get the local story from the high school prom or baseball game. We want to help them round out their reports – whether it’s with UGC from sports, business, tech, etc.

At a time when people are sharing more than ever before, though, Carvin said there’s a major concern that much of this content is moving to private spaces such as Snapchat, WeChat and WhatsApp. As establishing relationships with sources only increases in importance, we will continue to fine-tune our UGC processes. The value in it is clear, and we will provide further updates along the way.

Click here to see the complete list of AP’s news accounts on Twitter.

Ken Romano

Ken is a product director for The Associated Press, responsible for the strategy and rollout of text and multimedia products.

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