User generated content. It's the polite way of saying pictures taken by residents or readers. But should we steal? Or should we borrow?
By Dan Slee
A couple of months ago I had barbed exchange with a former colleague.
We'd talked about the old days when we were both reporters at a daily newspaper and we smiled as we reminisced at old war stories.
Then our talk turned to the future for newspapers and a dark cloud drifted over our chat.
I spoke of how newspapers needed to be digital first and think of the web ahead of print.
I spoke of how bloggers shouldn't always be seen as the enemy but people to work with when you can.
I talked of how the bright newspaper should link back, attribute and ask for permission before using content.
I mentioned how annoyed bloggers get when their content is lifted.
"But this has always happened," my former colleague angrily said.
"They should just stop being precious. Think about when you lifted a story from another newspaper."
The reporter was right. In the dog-eat-dog battle between papers we'd never dream of attributing a tale to a rival paper.
But this is just the point.
Blogs are not newspapers nor do they want to be.
They're put together often by community spirited residents. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are awful.
But treating bloggers as the enemy all the time is missing the point.
The way newspapers should deal with bloggers is the same as how they've always dealt with contributors whether they be the village contributor from Gnosall for the Stafford Newsletter or the U13 match report writer for the Stourbridge News.
They're relationships to nurture and encourage.
Then a rather wonderful thing happened today which made me think of this conversation.
A Walsall Advertiser reporter Helen Draycott asked a blogger via Twitter for permission to re-use images from the Walsall night market in the Walsall Advertiser.
The blogger, Brownhills Bob, agreed for a £10 donation to charity.
@brownhillsbob would we be able to use these in the Advertiser?
— Helen Draycott (@helen_marie83) March 29, 2013
@brownhillsbob The editor is going to arrange a donation. Could you let me know what credit to put in the paper with the photos? Thanks.
— Helen Draycott (@helen_marie83) April 2, 2013
That's how we should all look to engage with residents whether they be bloggers or someone who has taken a good image that you'd like to add to your corporate website.
If the answer is 'no' don't take it personally.
Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.