Congratulations to The Irish Times for being shortlisted in Newsbrands Ireland ‘Digital Excellence’ Awards 2018 for their use of User Generated Content using the Contribly platform.
As Ciara Kenny, Irish Abroad Editor at The Irish Times explains, readers are interested in stories written by and about people like them. Allowing them to share their experiences and opinions by publishing them both online and in print not only breaks down the divide between reader and journalist, but also creates a sense of community among a group of readers with shared interests.
Here's the detail of how Contribly is used, as described by Ciara in the award submission.
‘User generated content’ (UGC) is an area of growing importance for media organisations worldwide. Being part of the conversation is something our readers increasingly expect.
In recent years, The Irish Times has successfully used user generated content (UGC) in several editorial projects, by inviting readers to contribute to series on burnout, commuting and the rental crisis, for example. The resulting articles containing a moderated selection of submissions have been published both online and in print, with good traffic figures. When readers have been given the opportunity to send a considered submission, they have responded with text written to a high standard. These are stories we might not get using conventional journalism techniques. We knew this success could be replicated across other sections of the site through greater use of UGC.
Prior to using Contribly, UGC was gathered by using email and online forms leading to Google Docs at the back end. Now, using Contribly, journalists create a simple call-out form which can be embedded into an article on the website as an HTML element. The journalist specifies the fields they want the form to contain and whether a photo, video etc is required according to the particular context.
Irish Times social media accounts are used to promote the call-outs to readers, allowing journalists to target a particular audience – for example, a call-out about the Irish Ferries cancellations in June 2018 was pushed out through the Irish Times Travel Facebook page, and the Life & Style Twitter account.
Contributions can be edited and approved to be fed automatically into a gallery widget on the website, or selected for bulk download into a single Word document, or zip file for photographs.
The form design is responsive on mobile, so photographs, video and text can be directly uploaded from phones.
Since starting to use Contribly in September 2017, around 80 call-outs have been made with almost 4,000 contributions received from readers, ranging from a single photograph, to text contributions which have been published as standalone articles on the website and in print.
Take a look at these specific examples:
Eye-witness accounts and photographs. The 'Beast from the East' snowfall in February 2018. The call-out for reader photographs and stories resulted in over 500 submissions, published as four daily galleries, including this one The tool has been used successfully to produce galleries of reader pics for several other extreme weather events, including Hurricane Ophelia in October 2017, and the heatwave in summer 2018.
Longer personal stories or reflections on a theme. Ahead of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment, Contribly was used to gather stories from readers about their individual experiences of abortion and the Eighth Amendment. More than 100 very personal pieces were received, resulting in 10 articles published online as part of a daily series, which brought a human voice to both sides of the referendum campaign. Examples: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/my-circumstances-were-the-same-as-savita-halappanavar-s-1.3492038 and https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/we-knew-our-baby-would-die-continuing-the-pregnancy-helped-us-heal-1.3491013
Photography competitions. A Summer Snaps photo competition ran online during the heatwave in Summer 2018, where readers had a chance to win a digital camera. Hundreds of entries were received.
Reaction to breaking news events. When Ryanair cancelled flights just five days before Christmas, the Irish Times were inundated with reactions from passengers who were due to fly with the airline.
Reader queries. Contribly is used to gather queries and problems from readers for answer by resident experts in several sections: Trish Murphy on relationship and life problems in Health; Roe McDermott on sex queries, also in Health; and a panel of experts on emigration issues in the Irish Times Abroad section.
We'd like to say 'Well done' to Ciara and the team at The Irish Times for being nominated for this prestigious award. Find out more about using Contribly to create a sense of community with your readers, get in touch with us to find out more.