revealed: groundbreaking study of user generated content use at the bbc

By on Apr 28, 2009 in academic studies, BBC, citizen journalism, journalism | 2 comments

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In July 2007, as I announced here, the BBC/AHRC partnership selected eight projects
to go forward. I was, along with Liz Howell and Robin Morley, the
primary BBC sponsor for the largest of those projects, the most
comprehensive study ever undertaken of User-Generated Content and it's Impact upon Contributors, Non-Contributors and the BBC. The study was awarded £90,000, a clear demonstration of the importance of this piece of research both to the BBC and to the academic community.

The study was completed last summer but, until now, I've been unable to blog about it. Don't read between the lines – the report wasn't buried, I simply didn't feel that I had the necessary permission to blog about it but that all changed yesterday when the BBC and AHRC, who co-funded the research, held an event open to invited members of the public, including myself.

Claire Wardle from the Department of Journalism at Cardiff University, who completed the ground-breaking research along with colleague Andy Williams, revealed in this first presentation of the findings, the following.

The project was truly groundbreaking in that researchers had unparalleled access to BBC journalists, editors and audiences – allowing for:

access we were able to provide the researchers with was exceptional –
no previous researcher or research group had been given such an
opportunity, at least not in so far as any of us was ever aware. The
main findings of the research were that:

The study also identified a typology of audience material:

majority of respondents to the MORI poll commissioned had favourable
views of user generated content and thought it played a positive roll
in reporting yet few have actually contributed.

One of the
questions was whether people would take a photo if they saw a fire
break out – just 14% said they would, and just 6% of those said they'd
send it to a news organisation. Great differences were seen across
classes – 16% of higher management would take a photo, with all saying
they'd submit it to a news organisation, but in other groups
(middle-management to manual laborers) only between 4 – 5% would take a

There's lots of other interesting findings in the
full-version of the study which, so far as I'm aware, hasn't yet been
published publicly although it's my hope that it will be made available