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iReport vs uReport: Understanding the ‘U’ in UGC

Traditional media sites are beginning to feel the pressure of users spending more and more time on social networks. The answer for many, like Australia’s ABC, has been to make sure to have their content available where users are. The problem of course, can be that you then may forego a lot of online advertising revenue (which for ABC, being publicly funded, is not an issue).  The answer to many lies in figuring out how to engage users, and make them involved in your brand and in your content.

Two news organizations have tried this out:  CNN with their iReport and Fox News with their uReport. The contrast between the two are so extreme – one being extremely well designed and engaging – the other a complete flop and so poorly made it is a miracle it has not simply been pulled.  Let’s take a look at the obvious first, the level of engagement by their users:

Take a look at the screen shots from uReport and iReport taken last Friday, you will see that in the previous 24 hours, there were 2 new stories on uReport and 268 on iReport.  Given that Fox News has about 3 times the number of regular viewers than CNN has, it is spectacular how badly uReport is performing.

So what are some of the things that iReport is getting right, besides some of the obvious ones like web design?


The number one reason any brand has to think of that are considering involving their users in social media activities is to give the user a reason to engage.  In both services cases, the main reason is fame:  create something, and we may use your submission online or on TV, and give you a little mark on the material we use so that everyone can see it.

uReport seems to have been out of commission for a while, so the latest used image as of today was from July 2008, so you may argue that there is not even a basis for comparison.  However, look at the implementation, and you will see Fox simply has a “Seen on FNC” tab that lists the stories they’ve used. That’s it. That is all Fox News offers.

Check out iReport, and you will see a special section for reporters, appropriately named Superstars if their submissions are used a lot.  There is an assignment tab, so you can see what CNN will prioritize in terms of material to use on air, and CNN produces a half hour show every week compiling various submissions. Check out the iReports, and you will see that CNN is active in using submissions (on their site today, when I clicked iReports and ‘On CNN’, there were 8 stories that they had used).  CNN provides a reason for people to participate, Fox News does not.

Good user experience

Besides from the obvious reasons that the iReport web site is a lot more interesting and dynamic than uReport, you will notice in a comparison some key elements completely absent from uReport.  On CNN, you will see aspects such as most shared and most commented, key aspect of any social media service. They’ve even thrown in a category called ‘Newsiest’, which is a combination of ratings, views, comments and editorial opinion.

But where uReport is really put to shame is in the mobile experience. Although sadly both services are limited to iPhone users only, the uReport app basically allows you to do only one thing: take a picture and then you have to manually fill in your name, email, phone number and description. Every time! Funny enough, when a colleague of mine tried to send in a report, he got this message: “ The recipient’s mailbox is full and can’t accept messages now.” Wow.

Take a look at the CNN app, and you see a nice integrated app for viewing regular news, and reporting on it:

My favorite quote relating mobile to social is from mobile guru Tomi Ahonen: “ [Mobile] is the only media device always available at the point of inspiration, and only mobile captures the social context of media consumption.” Something that CNN gets and Fox does not.

Missing pieces

So is iReport the perfect service?  Well, they come close, but do miss one of the issues addressed at the start: How do you make revenue when users don’t necessarily want to hang out at your site? Without making this article into too much of a plug, that is an issue we have tried to address at Storyz. Storyz LiVE essentially enables any media organization to build an iReport type of service. However, there are a few key differences highlighted in this table:

(I give uReport no check on incentives, simply because it is poorly implemented and not taken seriously by Fox News).

Storyz LiVE enabled services allow users to not only invite users to participate on their social network on choice (i.e. invite a user on Facebook, and they can comment on Facebook. Invite them on email, and they can reply on email), but also allows brands to run advertising campaigns that extend to those platforms too, which can possibly stem some of the lost online ad revenue currently experienced by many brands. To learn more about Storyz LiVE, please do get in touch.

Posted in Other, Social Media Marketing.

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