This article is produced in partnership with Lobster.

The rise of UGC in journalism is real and it’s here to stay. The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism recently published a report which discovered, perhaps unsurprisingly, that young people cite social media (28 per cent) as their main source of news. This is ahead of TV (24 per cent) for the first time ever and popularity is still rising.

Part of the appeal relates to the immediacy of social media. However, that's not the only factor. At the very heart of this is a craving for authenticity – the genuine, gritty and unfiltered nature of UGC, which is bursting out from every corner of the globe. It’s legit and it’s as live as it gets.

This modern-age desire for homegrown footage is so prevalent that Lincolnshire newspaper, the Local, is now comprised of 75 per cent UGC. Its new approach works in conjunction with conventional methods, by actually providing more time for journalists to cover key stories.

Beyond breaking news

Every article you publish competes with a myriad of others on social media, so it’s risky to rely on your publication’s reputation alone.

For that reason, when commissioned photography isn’t available, some editors are spending longer searching for the right image (or video) than they are working on copy.

The options usually involve:

  • stock photo libraries, which tend to feel a little contrived;

  • newsroom image-banks that are often under-stocked;

  • rights-managed stock photography, which can cost the Earth;

  • UGC, which is a legal minefield and requires a gargantuan effort to trawl through.

But fortunately, this scenario has given rise to several new services, which make it easier to search and filter UGC.

One such service, Lobster, also takes care of the legal wranglings, so you don’t need to worry about copyright issues. For as little as 99p, journalists can use Lobster to quickly source UGC from Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, and Google Images.

“It can be a thankless task to search individual networks for images, so what Lobster does is automate this otherwise manual process,” co-founder Olga Egorsheva explained.

“Almost any significant event or happening of which you can think is likely to be covered by someone who is in attendance, and the images tend to me more compelling. It’s beautiful content that can now be licensed quickly, easily, and legally.”

When put to the test, the stats are quite revealing. For example, if you try and source images for an event, like the Notting Hill Carnival, you’ll notice that stock photo libraries return around 200 results or fewer. Lobster returns over 18,000 results, and it works out cheaper.

In addition to that, images are added in real time, so you could potentially publish an image of some jerk chicken before the owner has even finished eating it.

Time-saving tech

It’s pretty smart technology, especially when you consider that over 1.8 billion images and videos are posted online every day.

Behind the scenes, Lobster pulls together a whole array of UGC from relevant social media channels, which relate to a search term used. It then analyses tags and descriptions, while using image-recognition software to actually “see” the contents of a photo.

It can also narrow down search results based on a location, which is particularly useful for live updates.

Users can even upload a photo, scan it, and initiate a search for similar images.With all the copyright issues taken care of, there’s no need to contact the owner directly either.

All too often, someone in the spotlight is bombarded with requests to use an image from hundreds of different journalists - and without payment too. Through Lobster, the owners pick up a 75 per cent royalty, and they’re only contacted once.

When asked about the legal aspects, Egorsheva added: “Even if an image can be found, the legal grounds on whether it can be used are often not clear. Have you been granted permission? Has it been confirmed if the uploader took the photo? What about any third-party rights? Lobster makes life simpler for news publishers by taking care of all of that.”

So if you’re looking to save some time, without worrying about the legal aspects, take a look at Lobster.

Find out more about Lobster and meet the team at Social Media Week in September.

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