"All they do is chat: are they any use to us?" This was the typical reaction encountered by Dave Killeen, head of communities for Associated New Media, when he set about convincing his online editorial colleagues to let readers have their say on ANM's websites.
The perceived high cost of moderating user-generated content, and fears of legal liability, are among other reasons why many publishers have been hesitant to encourage more user-participation on their sites.
Yet Killeen, who describes himself as "unhealthily obsessed with content moderation", told delegates at an AOP forum on 21 September that he managed to persuade the publisher of dailymail.co.uk
to take the plunge. He achieved this by proving that users who had been 'exposed' to user-generated content were more active, i.e. viewing more pages per visit than users who had not been exposed, more loyal, and more frequent users. This has resulted in increased commercial opportunities for the publisher. Furthermore, the company has invested in a sophisticated content moderation system and development of strict 'house rules' that mean required human resource is reduced to just one moderator.
Magazine publishers too have been experimenting with blogs and user-generated content on their sites.
Caspian Publishing, the company behind Real Business
, Real Deals
and Real Finance
magazines, is in the process of launching its first blog project, a collaborative blog of business editors at: thebusinesseditors.com
Al Tepper, head of online development, says the site should be live by the end of October, commenting: "We see TheBusinessEditors.com
as a bold new step in business publishing - the collective diaries, insights and wisdom of a group of 20-plus top business journalists. Watch as the competition copies what we're doing?"
Editor Will Callaghan describes Menshealth.co.uk
as "a conversation about men". He described a recent success story where users volunteered to take part in fitness challenges such as 'Lose your love-handles', one of the site's most popular and profitable features. User-generated content had led to a change in editorial policy, both online and in the print magazine.
BBC product manager Daniel Mermelstein explained that it would be some time before the BBC would allow its users a degree of editorial freedom: "Changing the culture of an organisation like the BBC is a slow process," he said, "Unmoderated discussions online are still a dream for BBC News, but we are making the case for more openness and believe that this will change the relationship with our readers."
VNUNet European chief exccutive Dominque Busso is to give a keynote presentation titled 'Blogs and your business' at the AOP Online Publishing Conference 2005 on 7 October at the London Hilton Park Lane. VNUNet launched its Personal Blogs Service
in September 2005. The service, powered by Typepad, allows users to create their own blogs under the VNU brand.
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