Q&A: Matthew Eltringham, assistant interactivity editor, BBC News

In our latest speaker Q&A we hear from Matthew Eltringham, assistant interactivity producer at BBC News. Matthew looks after the BBC’s online messageboard Have Your Say. He set up the UGC Hub in 2005 – a team that manages how user-generated content is used across the news output, and won an RTS award for the coverage of the July 2007 floods.

Matthew will be taking part in our panel discussion on Building online communities: Building and managing communities around your content, from blogs and forums, to social media channels, and how best to make use of this specialist audience.

Follow this link to see the full agenda.

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What exactly do you do for the BBC?
I set up a team call the UGC Hub, which runs a number of functions for BBC News. The two key ones are the Have Your Say message boards, which I have been asked to talk about at news:rewired and the team also manages user-generated content either sent directly to us or material we have found elsewhere that we then share with TV, radio and web output to add value to BBC journalism. Increasingly I’m spending more time looking at ways of developing our editorial engagement and social media activity.

What will you be talking about at news:rewired?
I’ve been asked to talk about how we run Have Your Say and what the community management issues are. It’s quite a timely subject as we have just done some preliminary research with academics from Leeds about how the community behaves, which has come up with some surprising findings. We have also just changed the format of Have Your Say and are looking at how we might make further changes.

What are the key benefits brought to the BBC by Have Your Say?
First and foremost, I believe the BBC has an important public service duty to provide a high profile opportunity for people to discuss the big issues of the day and voice their opinions on a platform that everyone can easily find. Beyond that it is incredibly useful to hear what people are saying about these issues, although of course it is in no way a scientific cross section of the UK’s views. Nevertheless most days someone who has contributed to Have Your Say with something relevant and interesting finds themselves or their comments used elsewhere on BBC output.

Do you expect user-generated content to play a larger role in the BBC’s online news content in years to come?

User-generated content already plays a significant part in the BBC’s news ouput on TV, radio and online. We have been incorporating content sent to us directly or content shared on social media since 2005 – in fact we won an RTS award for our coverage of the floods that hit the UK in 2007. Stories such as the unrest in Iran or even the Haiti earthquake would have been almost impossible to cover without UGC. We are now looking at ways we can both deepen and broaden the relationship we have with our own audience and the wider online community and bring them more into the storytelling process.

Is there one online tool that you couldn’t live without? Why?
Twitter – it’s my own virtual senior common room.

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