Here’s what UGC is worth…

My old employer has a new category on its website: California Reports. Should viewers choose to submit video or still photos, the station gets the visual, the right to use it as they wish and the contributor gets to have their work on the website or used on air.
So KOVR gets to

at its sole discretion, publish or otherwise use any photograph submitted by you. Such publication or other use may occur on television, in books, in newspapers and magazines, on the Internet, and/or in or on any other medium of communication now or hereafter devised, and may be for advertising, promotion, the use of trade, and/or other commercial purposes.

And the contributor gets:

As a condition of submitting your photograph, you (and any other individual depicted in a photograph) unconditionally and irrevocably waive all claims to compensation for use of the photograph, and/or any rights with respect to such use you may have under copyright law, the right to publicity, the right to privacy, the law of defamation, and any other common law or statutory claims under the laws of any jurisdiction.

Sounds like a win-win for the station. I’m not against this…if it is meant to draw the audience in and works to get information out to the community. This is a wonderful opportunity for viewers to let the station know what they like, and if KOVR is on top of it they will get a lot of new story ideas and pick up some good contacts for future stories. The categories include local news, travel, weather, sports, entertainment, pets…weighted more for the fun stuff. I’ve looked, and the photos (haven’t found any videos yet) are pretty good.

UGC isn’t new…I can remember as a child sending my artistic efforts to the Oakland Tribune…they would choose a few works of crayola art each week for their Sunday segment. Newspaper letters to the editor are part of drawing the audience in. Heck, so are the classified ads. One thing I learned early on as a teacher (still working on it) is in order to teach, you have to engage your students. The same truth holds for the news media. The audience needs to feel connected. Until now that connection was a one way love affair with a station and/or its anchors and reporters. Now viewers can get gratification by submitting and seeing their visuals on TV – it creates a bond. They are now part of the station family.

Here’s where I get real though. One would hope that anyone with shots (still or video) that is worth something would be smart enough to demand payment. KOVR used to have a “Sharpshooter” program – they’d pay $25 for video submissions of breaking news. I can’t find it on the site anymore. They do pay stringers (folks who make a living picking up breaking stories) anywhere from $75 and upwards.

Philosophically…in my gut…news should be a pubic service. The audience gets it free…but there is a cost and there are profits to be made. Someone has to pay the salaries and other costs. And the station has to make enough to stay in business. Part of staying in business should include being honest with the audience and paying market value for news visuals. The everyday stuff – Fluffy the dog and vacation shots – is more a casual exchange. With the really big stuff – a word of caution and alerting the contributor to their rights and a contract that doesn’t take everything, leaving the contributor with nothing would be the right thing to do. News is hot when it is hot and its value doesn’t hold for long unless you have a special visual that holds its value over time, like the Zapruder film of President Kennedy’s assassination. Getting the word out is important. Maintaining ownership of your property is equally important.

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