A recent study has shown that a lot of traditional publishing companies have struggled to implement and make the most of user-generated content (UGC), with costs and efficiency listed as the main reasons.

But those that worry that enough people aren’t submitting UGC may be missing out on the much larger numbers who interact with it.

Traditional publishing companies are not alone in having their entire business model shaken up by the rise of the internet, but they are a sector which has faced challenges unlike almost any other.

With the rise of blogging, video sharing and other forms of content often labelled as social media or Web 2.0, they have seen an entirely new form of competition appear, seemingly out of nowhere.

Many such companies have tried to blend these new forms of content into their own but, according to a report by Neil Thurman of City University, many publishing businesses are struggling to integrate UGC, often because they do not feel it is worth it.

Jemima Kiss of The Guardian reports:

“Despite a heavy emphasis on UGC [in the media], the volume of response from users is typically very low and UGC is also a big drain on resources because of moderation and legal issues.”

Thurman spoke to the editors of ten UK news sites and concluded that the slow implementation of UGC was partly down to the reservations of editors.

Kiss argues that this ‘low’ interaction is actually misleading, and I have to agree with her. For while a relatively low number of users may actually submit content, the numbers of others interested in this content can be huge.

When it introduced basic social media functionality on to its site, such as comments, forums & reviews, USA Today saw a huge leap in user interaction.

The graph below, from Compete, shows the number of pages per visit (a hugely important statistic if your business model is based on a CPM advertising rates).


Can you guess when the changes were implemented? It’s not too difficult is it.

I also know from experience, from when I worked in publishing, of examples where a single story submitted to Digg resulted in over 10,000 visits.

And yet the story was only ‘dugg’ by around 600 users; once again this shows that judging the effectiveness of UGC & social media by those who directly contribute might mean that you’re missing the bigger picture.

if you’re still not sure, just think of how many videos you’ve watched on YouTube, and then whether you’ve actually ever submitted one. No, me neither.