May 16, 2017

The Associated Press has become the latest news organization to get into the user-generated content game, announcing on Tuesday the launch of a new service called AP Social Newswire.

The new service works with the platform SAM to find, vet and verify content generated by users on social media and elsewhere. AP customers will be able to embed that content into their work. The feed will offer UGC on international and regional coverage as well as trending topics.

The AP has used SAM since 2015, according to the press release, and owns an equity stake in it. Social Newswire is available to AP clients at an additional cost, according to the AP.

“Demand to sift, verify and curate UGC has never been higher,” James A. Neufeld, CEO and founder of SAM, said in a press release announcing the new service. “Nearly every newsroom relies heavily on UGC to report on local and international events, yet it remains the most difficult and understaffed part of the newsroom. This collaboration with AP is so much more than collecting social media posts — it’s a real-time feed of status reports as UGC gets verified and cleared.” offered a similar function until closing last this year. Before closing, staffers offered some tips on tools for verification. Storyful, the social news agency owned by News Corp, also helps news organizations find and license user-generated content.

AP Social Media Editor Eric Carvin answered a few questions about the new service via email:

Why is The Associated Press doing this now?

The ability to track down witnesses, and verify the content they’re sharing online, is critical to covering breaking news and planned events. As the amount of visual material appearing online continues to grow, it becomes increasingly likely that powerful news imagery can be sourced from a member of the public.

News organizations have limited resources, so any help they can get to discover essential content — and use their own resources elsewhere — is enormously helpful. Also, verification can be a challenge for a news operation without its own reporting resources in the part of the world where a piece of eyewitness media emerged. AP has that expertise, and very high standards, which are central to what the Social Newswire offers.

How do you see customers using this?

I see different uses for different sorts of newsrooms. A very small operation that can’t really chase social content itself could rely on the Social Newswire to surface and verify the most essential items, and could create custom embeds on their websites that auto-populate with UGC that AP finds, clears and verifies.

A larger newsroom could use the Newswire for information about verification, backing up their own authentication endeavors. And any customer that’s trying to figure out how to allocate its resources could keep track of what we’re chasing and confirming, and use their own staff to chase content around other stories.

User-generated content has come into fashion in waves, it seems like. Are journalists getting any smarter with how we find and use it?

Many are, yes. But the signal-to-noise ratio remains problematic, and social newsgathering doesn’t always take place efficiently. AP’s use of SAM, which provides the technology behind the Social Newswire, has helped us tackle both of those problems. And through that Social Newswire, we hope to bring that benefit to others in the industry.

This will also focus on trending news, right? Is it intended to help customers spot trends, kind of like Facebook’s CrowdTangle?

There will be some trend-spotting benefits, particularly if there’s emerging social content around a story that’s not yet well known. Though it’s not going to scale as a trend tool for the web. Here at AP, we turn to another tool — NewsWhip — to give us clues about what’s starting to trend.

Any thoughts on how this can work at the local level?

We’re expanding our social newsgathering efforts to move beyond the top two or three global stories of the day, and to include anything from anywhere that helps tell a good news story. That means more regional and local content in this new service.

Also, customers of the Social Newswire who choose to get full access to SAM will be able to bring in the social content they find locally, seamlessly integrating it with whatever the AP team has verified. That way, they can essentially take what they find on the Social Newswire and tailor it to their particular market.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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