Storyful's Erica Berger sought to answer at a recent event called "How User-Generated Content Is Changing News" hosted at Contently's headquarters in New York City.
Regardless of whether you're a content producer, a media outlet, or just someone interested in the space where journalists and your average Jill interact, there's plenty to learn about the new face of news: curating user-generated content.
Traditionally, the hard-hitting journalist has reported breaking details from the heart of the action - war, famine, fire, flood. Almost inevitably, he or she will turn to a bystander at some point to collect a real-time, personal insight into the situation.
But what if your organization doesn't have someone on the scene? What if you're a startup with a unique value proposition that doesn't yet have the appropriate local resources, or what if budget cuts have forced you to limit the number of staff members in the field?
The good news is, everything is going to be okay. Better than okay. Because companies like Storyful are perfecting the art of sourcing, verifying, curating, and distributing breaking, user-generated news.
Why can't news organizations simply search for the content themselves? Well, for starters, the numbers are daunting. According to YouTube Statistics, 72 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute. Twitter volume varies hugely from day to day, but during special events such as the presidential debates, the site boasts millions of Tweets per hour (source). And with new social sharing sites popping up every day, the stream of content will only increase as time goes on.
Additionally, it's not always easy to check the veracity of newsworthy material once it's discovered, or to attribute said material to an appropriate source, especially since the internet is rife with people trying to claim credit for popular content. It was fascinating to hear the lengths that Storyful goes to in order to pinpoint date, time, location, and other details. From verifying weather and shadow-lengths in pictures to cross-referencing profiles on various social media platforms, there's always a way to get to the bottom of a good story.
And, like any modern company worth its salt, Storyful knows when they have the tools to deliver what's asked of them, and when it's time to share leads with a network of strategically selected partners.
All of this instant access to breaking news brings up a good question - how do you differentiate your media company on a playing field that's been leveled by the "death of the inside scoop?" According to Erica, it's becoming increasingly important for publications to find their own voices. It's the way in which the information is presented, rather than the facts, images, and videos themselves, that set a publication apart. Of course, having a voice and choosing a stance might alienate some potential readers; but it will also establish a loyal user base that will go much farther than a higher volume of disengaged viewers towards long-term success.
Want to learn more about the people and companies mentioned in this story? Click on the links above, or follow Erica Berger, Storyful, and Contently on Twitter.
Edit: Came across a great article today on Gigaom called Amplification & the changing role of media. Great read if you're interested in the evolution of news media and how it relates to social.