We live in a world full of information overload. Anyone can upload anything online and call it breaking news. So how can we decipher what’s factual and what’s opinion?
As defined by Hootsuite, User-generated content, also known as UGC, refers to “any content — text, videos, images, reviews, etc. — created by people, rather than brands.” Many times brands will share UGC on their own social media platforms, websites, and other marketing outlets. Asking permission and verifying with an individual might be easy on an Instagram photo or a Facebook tag, but when it comes to sharing news articles and content that seems factual, it can be an area of grey.
I call this an area of grey because many times we assume if there’s an article and someone seemingly reputable shares it that it has to be true, but that is not always the case. As media consumers and practitioners we have a responsibility for verifying information before we share it or accidentally “endorse” it. Using a headline story from Good Morning America (GMA), we will walk through verification techniques. This past week, GMA did a segment on TV about the latest Apple Watch and it’s health benefits, and they also wrote an article for this segment which I linked below.
The article’s title “Apple charges ahead into medical research; introduces Research app” expresses that Apple is expanding in medical research for their devices. The article discusses the latest Apple research app which is intended to make health studies and tests more accessible to the masses. Using, the “5 Pillars of Visual Verification” from First Draft News, we can verify this information before sharing it. The first step, is provenance, which refers to if this is an original piece of content. After looking at the piece, we can say it is original and was written specifically for GMA. The research linked and the writing itself can answer that question. The second step is identifying the source. Who captured this piece? On the article itself it says that it was written by Jennifer DeCuir, MD-PhD who is an internal medicine resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit. She seems like someone equipped in the medical field and is trustworthy to write a health piece.
Moving forward, the third step is checking the date. This sometimes goes unnoticed because content can be repurposed online for many reasons. The GMA article says it was published November 14, 2019, so we know this is recent and current. Th fourth step is finding the location. Where was this piece captured? Ideas, views, and opinions vary region by region, country by country, so locating this is crucial to understanding the piece. GMA is an NYC based company and they represent news and trends among the U.S.
The last step is motivation. Understanding why this piece of content was created can help immensley. For example, in times of a political election you can see all sorts of news coverage about various candidates, but understanding if a piece is coming from a more democratic or republican side can help you formulate your own opinions and be less swayed. The latest Apple Watch was recently released and the Holidays are around the corner, so based on knowing this, we can assume the motivation is bringing awareness to health products like this, and that the watch that is available for purchase.
While no method to verification is fool-proof, taking the time to actually move through these 5 steps can be extremely beneficial. These steps can point you in the right direction when it comes to verifying UGC.