Ease of publishing online

Publishing online is becoming ever easier. The proliferation of high speed internet domestically and abroad has enabled content to be digitally published from almost anywhere in the world (see access to the internet). Now more than ever anyone anywhere can publish any type of content online.

The range of ‘user-generated’ content that anybody can create and publish has broadened beyond text to include images, audio and video, including live video broadcasts that can be viewed online and on mobile phones. In terms of text, frequently publishing very short pieces of ‘micro’ content (eg through twitter and similar platforms) is increasingly popular. This ‘micro-blogging’ is particularly used for sharing links, pictures or video (see online collaboration – driver coming soon). Regularly commenting, rating, reviewing and recommending people and services is also increasingly common (see recommendation economy – driver coming soon).

The internet is now brimming with both professional and user-generated content. People are increasing the time they spend consuming, sharing and interacting with this content. By contrast, they are decreasing the time they spend consuming content that is merely broadcast.

People are attracted to their friends’ content - content created by their friends, that is about their friends or which their friends have recommended and ‘shared’. In response, professionally produced content that was historically broadcast to people and only accessible offline, such as books, music and newspapers, is now available online and is increasingly presented in a format similar to user generated content.

The physical tools for publishing content online have become easier to use, more affordable and more diverse. There are digital cameras that publish photographs directly to websites, ‘smart’ phones (internet-enabled mobile phones which perform tasks similar to that of a computer) that create content then publish it to the internet, and new devices such as tablet computers which are part phone, part computer (see ubiquitous connectivity).

Collaboration and transparency have been the greatest enablers of easy publishing. Websites have become open to users logging in with their login credentials from other websites such as their Facebook or Gmail account. Software on mobile phones has been designed so that content can be easily transported from one mobile programme to the other, especially between programmes created by different companies. The Creative Commons movement has introduced legal freedoms that protect copyright without unduly inhibiting its usage. We have turned a corner. The former era of control has been replaced by one of free creativity where organisations are profiting from making their content social. In this era, slick professional content has given way to amateur-looking reportage. People expect social media content to be authentic – pictures and videos which look raw and unedited, as opposed to professionally retouched and edited.

In recent years it has become far easier to create websites and publish content online, allowing the public to create their own news and set their own agendas.  Blogging and online forums, that only require a minimum of technical knowledge, have allowed a wide diversity of organisations and individuals to reach people.  Large media outlets still play a major role, but increasingly link to grass roots websites that they feel are better able to reflect the voices and views of the public.

What are the implications?

  • Power shifts from organisations to individuals as publishing moves away from a ‘broadcast’ model, where a central organisation publishes to a large audience, towards a ‘conversational’ model, where a large number of smaller organisations and individuals are all publishing and talking to each other.
  • A narrowing gap between ‘professionals’ and ‘amateurs’.
  • Previously those who controlled publishing channels acted as a filter, now the responsibility to filter has shifted towards individuals.
  • Rise of social media content gatekeepers and curators which help people filter out the noise among the plethora of digital content available.
  • In the spirit of collaboration and transparency, supporters will expect charities to make their content social.
  • Ideas, campaigns, opinions and news become more easy to spread.
  • Increase in marketing campaigns that encourage people to publish their own content that helps propel the marketing message.
  • Increase in fundraising competition as overseas charitable organisations have the marketing ideas to attract UK donors who would otherwise have donated to UK organisations; and vice-versa.
  • As the amount of unedited content and noise in social media grows, people may wish to retire to the trusted realm of broadcast media where content has an economic imperative to be exactly to their liking (because of the relationship between advertisers and broadcasters).
  • Increase in ‘positive piracy’ - creativity which is seen by the content’s originator as positive (e.g. people publishing their own remixes and covers of pop songs on YouTube).
  • Increase in ‘negative piracy’ - creativity which is seen by the content’s originator as negative (e.g. people publishing their own remixes and covers of pop songs which risk generating more attention and revenue than the original song).
  • Challenges for establishing online identities and building trust online.
  • Increase in viruses and malware (see online security).
  • Increase in fundraising fraud whereby criminals create a fake charity website and solicit donations (see online security).

Moving forward

People expect information to be presented as rich media, i.e. photos, videos and audio, not only text.

  • Can you create short videos in a video diary style which tell the story of your organisation’s work?
  • Can you publish photos of your organisation’s work on photo sharing websites like Flickr and Facebook?
  • Can you create an audio report which talks about what your organisation does and make it available as a free downloadable podcast from iTunes or your website?

Supporters want charity content to be social. Campaigning charities have historically been good at empowering supporters to promote a campaign with their own creativity.

  • What are your policies around usage of brand and content?
  • How could you take steps to prevent unlawful, unhelpful and fraudulent usage of your brand?
  • What content do you have that can be distributed through social media? Are your project progress reports only available to supporters or could they be distributed in ‘bite-size’ chunks through online communities?
  • Do you have a marketing campaign that would benefit from supporters taking on the mantle of promoting the campaign themselves? What content would you want people to be able to publish themselves?

Easy publishing has enabled people to post and share their opinions, advice and experiences with a wider group of likeminded people.

  • How can your organisation encourage users to support each other online?
  • Do you have a Facebook Group or online forum where your users can exchange stories and advice online?
  • Should you consider providing a secure online route for potential users to register for your services?
  • Can you enable users to tell you more information about themselves using an online form or online profile onto which they can upload pictures, text or video about themselves as it relates to how your organisation can support them.

Online there is a deluge of information about every topic under the sun. People need trusted sources which can filter out what’s unnecessary.

  • How can your organisation act as a curator of information about the topics you have knowledge in?
  • Are there academic studies, newspaper articles or other informative websites which could assist your users or supporters? Can you provide links to them? Can you enable people to rate or comment or their usefulness?

Want to know more?

CUSTOMER-MADE TrendWatching Report

Published by: Trendwatching.com

Date: 2006

Format: Web

What is it? A report about customers and organisations collaborating to create products and services.

How useful is this? This article talks about how customers can become integral parts of organisations' innovation processes and how customer involvement in an organisation can be profitably harnessed.

User-Generated Content, Social Media and Advertising - An Overview

Published by: Interactive Advertising Bureau

Date: 2008

Format: PDF

What is it? A concise and comprehensive overview of what people are publishing online.

How useful is this? Very useful overview with examples of organisations which are taking advantage of the trend.

Gartner Reveals Five Social Software Predictions for 2010 and Beyond

Published by: Gartner Research

Date: 2010

Format: Web Press Release

What is it? Predictions around how organisations will use social media in the years to come.

How useful is this? The release highlights the need to embrace software which is designed to be social as opposed to standalone. It predicts that organisations which fail to connect collaboration with communication will suffer.

Last updated at 16:17 Thu 17/Feb/11.

Recent comments

Megan 's picture


Third Sector Foresight

Pete alerted me to this post from Peter Franklin on the Conservative Home blog which talks about the blogs that influence those in Westminster. The oldest and most influential bloggers are still independent individuals (he cites Guido Fawkes, Iain Dale and Conservative Home). However, he sees the mainstream press reasserting its previous dominance as many journalists get the hang of writing good blogs, which are becoming increasingly influential (eg Comment Central from Danny Finkelstein and colleagues at the Times and the Spectator’s Coffee House blog)

Written as Policy Officer at NCVO

I just read an extract from a speech by Hazel Blears MP, on ‘Tackling Disengagement’ in it, she infers that political blogging fuels cynicism and leads to disengagement.

I think its particularly pertinent given she gave this speech on the 5th November, the day after Barrack Obama was elected and declared President–elect of the USA. Obama’s campaign and eventual victory has been historic for a number of reasons- not least because of the way he was able to mobilize and organise from the grassroots up. This involved the phenomenal use of information and communications technology, and the blogosphere was another arena in which the debates about the US 2008 election.

This resonates with many of the findings from the Power Inquiry – people do want to get involved, just not necessarily in formal politics. I think that blogging is another way in which people can and do get involved in the world around them, their communities and wider civil society.

Over the weekend there were many articles and op-eds on this same subject: here here and here to link to a few.

Hazel Blears has also responded to some of this criticism via the comments on her own blog

Kathryn's picture


Third Sector Foresight

Is new technology undermining the authorial voice and its position of authority? Is media becoming truly democratised? Let’s look at this in the light of a project which exemplifies the latest developments in technology and how works are created.

Jules Peck and Robert Phillips are working on what they call their online Wiki book: *Citizen Renaissance*. A great example of many of the features talked about in this driver: collaborative working, online information as well as the role of the ‘crowd’ in creating content.

In their own words, Jules and Robert are using this format of creating their book because they ‘don’t have all the answers’. This exemplifies the blurring of authority and its location that new media and new ways of publishing stir up. When a work is opened to the wisdom of crowds, there is a shift in the relationship between received authoritative voice and recipient. This embraces the ethos of web 2.0 – collaboration and interaction.

Fashion vs function?

However, I think it’s uncertain to what extent it will encroach on more traditional ways of creating a work. There are those such as Encyclopaedia Britannica who feel that enabling a purely democratic process in the way that Wikipedia does, isn’t necessarily going to lead to a more accurate product. They have decided to embrace the power of collaboration but retain ultimate authority:

"We are not abdicating our responsibility as publishers or burying it under the now-fashionable 'wisdom of the crowds'," wrote Jorge Cauz in his blog. "We believe that the creation and documentation of knowledge is a collaborative process but not a democratic one," Cauz noted, explaining further that "these experts would sit alongside the encyclopaedia entries and the official material would carry a 'Britannica Checked' stamp, to distinguish it from the user-generated content."

It seems that Citizen Renaissance is following a similar model: you can submit your views on the book as a whole or at the bottom of each page, but Peck and Phillips retain overall control. People whose views make the final cut and which shape the book will be credited but ultimately it will be seen as a Peck and Phillips product.

This has important implications for any brand; ultimately any product has a name which is the person or organisation most associated with it and as such will be held responsible for that product in the minds of the public. It looks like there is a growing enthusiasm for using online collaboration (see this Governmental wiki) but I don’t think we are yet seeing mass democratisation. Those whose name will be appended to a creation are retaining overall authority; people can interact and contribute but they are moderated.

So what does this mean, for the VCS? Would you want to be seen to be more open? Or is it more important for you to be a definitive source of authority on a subject? It raises similar issues to those relating to online forums – do you operate any level of control over who contributes, or what they say?

And this is without even dabbling in the content of the book itself! It reinvisions society, looking at what shaping the future is and how it could see itself. Writing the book in the way they are, is perhaps the only way that this topic can be written about.

After all, you can’t write about the future using ways of old!

Paul 's picture


Third Sector Foresight

With the huge rise of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter over the past few years, the debate has sparked again about the power of these networks compared to traditional media. Cases such as the Guardian/Trafigura gagging case show the power campaigns using sites such as Twitter can have on shaping and influencing the news. They are also a good example of the quite brilliantly named Streisand Effect – in an attempt to censor a piece of information you cause the unintended consequence of giving it a lot more coverage.

I think the power of Twitter doesn’t lie with the millions of people who are members, but in the fact that it is loved by journalists and politicians. A recent study found that the top 10% of twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets, while the median number of lifetime tweets for a user is just 1. This seems to suggest that most people who use twitter are followers rather than those creating and promoting content. The success of a twitter or social network campaign doesn’t depend on the number of people who support it, but who supports it. In The Guardian/Trafigura case, the tweets were initially sent by The Guardian editor-in-chief, someone who not only has a lot of followers, but has a lot of influential followers who shape the traditional media landscape. This is what I think is the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful Twitter campaign – the power to engage those whose position means they can make a difference.

This is the major problem you face when trying to assess the impact social networks have in shaping the media agenda, how much are they shaping the agenda and how much are they just reporting what the traditional media also covers? People tend to take their news from those they know are trustworthy, this is why people will follow newspapers, journalists and TV news services on Twitter, in this respect social networking sites just act as another mouthpiece for the traditional media.

The power and popularity of blogs also appears to be falling, blogads, which sells advertising on blogs says that media buyers’ inquiries about advertising increased ten fold between 2004 and 2008, but have only grown by 17% since then. Does this mean the novelty of alternative news sources has worn off and people are returning to their traditional media sources?

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