User generated content - complement or threat to the print media industry?

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2007

32 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1 The phenomenon of user generated content

2 Traditional print media value chains and business models

3 Relevant types of UGC in the print media sector

4 Assessment of UGC and print media – Is it a complement or a threat?
4.1 UGC and print media: Intermediary business models
4.2 Can UGC influence the print media usage habits?
4.3 Risks and chances in implementing UGC in print media

5 Print Media business models implementing UGC

6 Conclusion

1 The phenomenon of user generated content

Only minutes after the terrorist attacks on some of London's tube lines and buses on July the 7th 2005 the news of the cruel onslaughts was spread in the web: In hundreds of weblogs and podcasts the event was described or film scenes shot by eye witnesses were shown even before one professional journalist could have written a news report. Only when some of the thousands of eyewitnesses sent one of the 20 000 emails, 3000 SMS, 1000 pictures or 20 videos (Hitz 2006, p. 69) the BBC found out about the events, selected and filtered the news, took their journalists to the spot and generated traditional news. Therefore the question arises whether the user generated content of the eyewitnesses may even have substituted the news report of the BBC – many of the traditional medias users had got the information quicker and more direct via web 2.0 applications. In this context this hypotheses seems adventurous but user generated content on the web is a phenomenon which has occurred only in the last couple of years using the new technologies of broadband internet access, mobile communication, mobile radio to generate their own content distributing it through weblogs, podcasts and wikis now gaining more and more power and reach using new web 2.0 technologies to promote themselves through (social) networking. Obviously traditional media are facing a new competitor in the media market: the user. This thesis will therefore ask the questions arising in the context how traditional print media and user generated content interact. The argumentative focus will be on the German print media market. Firstly, it is important to look at the competition: Can UGC be a competitor to the traditional media? Under what conditions? The question is not if UGC will replace traditional print media in near future but how the concepts of UGC could possibly compete traditional media concepts. Moreover, however the question of competition is answered, it is crucial to look at the concepts of UGC and how traditional media could adopt some of these concepts and even implement new ideas of UGC. In this context, it is also viable to take a closer look at possible monetization of UGC or how traditional media companies could find new ways to generate revenues.

These three questions will be examined for the media sector of print, as this sector seems to be threatened very much and behave very actively after Harvard Business school teacher Clark Gilbert was even talking about the internet as a possible disruptive technology for the newspaper business if there are not going to be initiated profound changes (Riefler 2004). Therefore the Newspaper Association of America demanded of her members to finally discover the possibilities of the internet and actively enter this business area (Riefler 2004). So when the topic of user generated content arose in the last years and the word of web 2.0 was spread print media companies, and especially newspaper companies, were warned by the fast developments in the web in the past and were anxious to see what web 2.0 would mean for the print media industry. They now know they have to try to be ahead of the crowd – either by implementing user generated content or by fighting it - arising the question if user generated content must be seen as a competitor on the print media market or as a possibility to gain access to new target groups, new markets and new options to market cross-media and add value to their traditional brands.

These questions will be addressed in this paper, looking at the print media market, in this context following the definition of Ganz-Blättler and Süss (1998, p. 53), defining it as the three big mass media goods - newspapers, journals and books - and apart from that including their “elongation” into the web, i.e. home pages of newspapers with same or nearly the same content as the print version. Defining print media in this content therefore excludes cost-free papers, catalogs, maps and all print products aiming at solely advertising products and services. Moreover it will focus on print products as goods, and publishing houses as businesses, i.e. it will not focus on non-profit organisations.

2 Traditional print media value chains and business models

In order to evaluate the relation between user generated content media and book publishing houses respectively periodical publishing houses, it is necessary to have a look at their business models first: Newspaper and journal publishing houses have equal generic value chains and are therefore considered as one in the following.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 1: value chain of newspapers and journals, in dependence on Wirtz (2001), p. 125

The first two arrows show the creation of content: Content in a periodicals' publishing house is mostly generated by the journalists of the publishing house or bought from news agencies. In the first step of generating the content of a print product, also the acquisition of advertisements is crucial: Ads are the most important source of income for journals and newspapers (Breyer-Mayländer & Werner 2003, p. 117). In the second step the content is edited and checked and the advertisements are positioned. The third step is the aggregation and packaging of content; the editorial part is merged with the advertisement part and the layout is created (Wirtz 2001, p. 124). Here the dual character of periodical print products shows: They have to fit the needs of the advertisers as well as the readers. The fourth step in the value chain is the duplication of the first copy whereas the fifth step comprises the distribution. Both last steps are not creating generic value for the publishing house as they are mostly outsourced to print offices and wholesalers etc. (Wirtz 2001, p. 125). Besides as more and more newspapers and journals offer content on the web (similar or not), the production and distribution costs appear in another light.

Newspaper respectively journal publishing houses' revenue sources are, as stated, the advertisements and moreover, the sales profits both from subscription and retail sales. For some periodicals also licensing or merchandising is a relevant source of income - for some also archive services are important (Wirtz 2001, p. 126).

Book publishing houses generate value through different steps which are now described in dependence on Wirtz (2001, pp. 177-8) (see figure 2): The main focus lies on identifying, selecting and acquiring content (1): In general, book publishing houses buy content i.e. buy licenses or copyrights from authors. Hereby not only economic reasons are pivotal, but books are also seen as merit goods and therefore books are published without big economic expectations. (Newspapers and journals are also seen as merit goods, but not to such a degree as books.)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 2: value chain of book publishing houses, in dependence on Wirtz (2001), p. 177

The next step happens in the editorial office (2): Here the “raw” content is refined by editing, aggregating of content etc. In dependence on Wirtz through the sale of rights and licenses value is created in a third step (3). However, this value creation is dependent on the rights a publishing house has acquired – if a publishing house mostly buys licences itself, the marketing of the rights is virtually impossible as most of the rights lie with the original publishing house. If a publishing house can market the licenses, this is the second source of revenue: Book publishing houses in general do not generate income by advertisements or public fees (like TV or radio licence fees in Germany) but by sales and licenses and in some cases also by merchandising. Again the forth and fifth step are not associated to the generic value chain of book publishing houses: In most cases, print offices and book wholesalers perform this task. To recapitulate: Book publishing houses mostly identify and acquire, edit (partly also check) and aggregate content.

3 Relevant types of UGC in the print media sector

In general, user generated content is non-commercial: UGC developed in the context of the so-called “web 2.0”. As of now, “there is no scientific definition of web 2.0” (Hoegg et al. 2006, p.12). as its name first appeared in 2004 (Klingler & Trump 2007, p.9). It is, therefore, still in its development and only approaches to a definition can be made: Hoegg et. al. try to approach a definition, by stating, that web 2.0 is not a specific technology, but a development on the web, that can be defined as “the philosophy of mutually maximizing collective intelligence and added value for each participant by formalized and dynamic information sharing and creation” (Hoegg et. al., p.13). UGC is a part of the concept of web 2.0. Klingler and Trump (2007, p.11) define it as journalistic publications on the web as well as small changes on existing websites. This means, that also commenting, changing and tagging of websites and their articles is part of user generated content.

The phrase user generated content therefore expresses that the consumer of media/content creates content himself.

Among the various user generated content applications in the web 2.0 there are several tools that seem to be more relevant as competitors of the conventional print media than others as they are entering some of the key competences of print media, e.g. identification, selection, bundeling and publishing of content (see 3.1 Traditional print media value chains and business models). Regarding their general attributes, weblogs (or blogs), wikis and RSS seem to be more likely to compete traditional print media:

A weblog (or abbreviated blog) is a website with a chronological, often topical electronic diary which is updated very regularly (according to Picot & Fischer 2006, p. 3). Weblogs can be created for free with special blog software e.g. the service from in a few minutes and without knowledge of programming languages and therefore are mostly led by non-professional writers. In comparison to the personal websites of the past, weblogs have some big advantages: Firstly, the blogging software makes it possible for everyone to have a blog and to publish very cost-extensively. Secondly, blogs can reach a bigger audience with the help of RSS (Real Simple Syndication), blogrolls (link list of other blogs on the website), trackback and permalinks (Alby 2007, pp. 21-23). Thirdly, blogs are interactive, as they mostly allow to comment articles and start a discussion, and multimedia-based, e.g. a blog can also contain a video or audio sequence. Summarizing, blogs have a non-linear value chain with one or more editors and no more packaging, few layouting or similar processes. The content is distributed via the internet which is nearly costless.

RSS is a practically not a medium but a technique of syndication that makes it possible to subscribe to several blogs and therefore helps accelerating the distribution of information (compare Picot & Fischer 2006, p. 4) in network and generating sites from content of other websites. Feedreaders are the software to read the RSS- or Atom-Feeds (both based on XML) (Alby 2007, p. 48). Trackback allows the blogger to get informed when his blog article was citated by another blogger, whereas permalinks are unique URLs for every blog entry (Alby 2007, p. 22) that help linking the blog world and enable the interconnectedness and networking within the blogosphere helping to reach a bigger audience.

The development of wikis is another invasion into the competences of traditional print media: Wikis are data bases which can be edited by everyone, sometimes restricted through authorization processes (Alby 2007, p. 88). In a wiki you only need to know a few rules to edit articles, like in a blog but in contrast to a blog everyone can edit everything – also existing articles – and every one can start a new topic (Möller 2005, pp. 166). In general every site has a discussion area where contributions can be discussed before changing them. Moreover, old versions of articles are saved in the history of an article – which prevents intentional or unintentional deletions and helps to cope with vandalism (Alby 2007, pp. 88-9). The most famous wiki is where millions of users generate an open source encyclopedia.

Online communities are communities of like-minded people with alike interests who communicate via electronic media over a longer period (Reichwald & Piller 2006, p.178). Therefore, communities can be build around a weblog or a wiki and are thence no technique or user generated content medium on their own. Communities will hence not be treated as possible opponents of print media but seen as part of the web 2.0 applications of weblogs or wikis. A community could e.g. be all commentators and bloggers who read one blog and blog about it themselves or comment the blog on the blogsite.

All three web 2.0 applications have feedback channels what permits the creation of content by users and separates the web 2.0 media from traditional media. In the following weblogs and wikis are referred to as user generated content media.

4 Assessment of UGC and print media – Is it a complement or a threat?

The new developed applications seem to be the most direct competition to print media, as they now part of the process of generating and publishing content to a bigger audience. Under the precondition that print media and digital “print” media are competitors, it is crucial to compare the business models of traditional media and user generated content media to recognize if their key competences are really the same. Furthermore, the possibility is discussed whether user generated content can influence the usage habits regarding print media. For that, the motivation of the users of both user generated content and traditional print media is examined and a closer look on today's media usage habits will be taken. Additionally risks and opportunities in implementing user generated content will be appraised as well as existing or future business models integrating user generated content will be introduced.


Excerpt out of 32 pages


User generated content - complement or threat to the print media industry?
LMU Munich  (Institut für Information Organisation und Management)
"Beyond Web 2.0"
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
538 KB
Printmedien, UGC, Web 2.0, intermediale Konkurrenz, journalism, Tod des Buches, citizen journalism, blogs, blog, Community, Online Community, RSS, Wiki
Quote paper
Ina Fuchshuber (Author), 2007, User generated content - complement or threat to the print media industry?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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