Publishers chasing user-generated content

Arjun Kharpal, special to
Tuomas Kujansuu | E+ | Getty Images

Magazines and newspapers have always liked to get their readers involved.

First it was letters to the editor, then it was comments on websites, with links to social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest following shortly after. Now publications are increasingly turning to their users to create their content.

London listings magazine Time Out announced last month that their next issue, to be released on Tuesday, is going to be written by their users. Readers will be writing theatre, concert and venue reviews and other content under the guidance of Time Out journalists.

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Newspapers' thirst for user-generated content is getting stronger: as well as hosting live discussions with journalists through social media, websites are also using tweets and pictures from their readers to create stories.

Using sourced content is likely to keep consumers on a publisher's website and create the potential to bring people back, according to Anthony Mullen, senior analyst at Forrester.

"Publications are responding to a consumer trend. The publishing medium, whether it is newspaper or TV, is moving from broadcasting communication to interactive communication.

"If brands are harnessing user generated content, it is adding more depth to the brand's offering and that will grease the path towards a potential sale."

Some media companies feel the speed at which social media and user content moves is why it is so appealing.

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"There is something important about the immediacy of content. When you are in that environment of live events, like we are, you want to get to the point where curated social media content is getting into mainstream as quickly as possible," Dave Cook, chief technology officer of Time Out Digital told CNBC.

Ready to help news sites make the most of their users are social media companies such as Disqus, Lithium technologies and Jive.

The latest entrant to the U.K. is LiveFyre, whose products are aimed to aid real-time reporting. The company sells live comment software that can be embedded on publications' websites and draw in tweets, Instagram pictures and other social media data. Users pay a set-up fee plus monthly subscriptions.

LiveFyre was founded in the San Francisco in 2009 and launched in the UK on last week. Rupert Murdoch's News UK was LiveFyre's first customer and The Times and The Sun have adopted the technology.

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The move by news publications to adopt the software is seen as a trend towards publishers outsourcing parts of their content.

"Essentially the newspapers are handing this over to third parties because it is becoming harder for them to manage it. The shift is in who is providing the service as opposed to a massive shift in the social media landscape," Ian Maude, an online media analyst at Enders Analysis told CNBC

LiveFyre's expansion to Europe is seen by analysts as the latest step in a growing market of curating and using user content generated by the general public.

Time Out is using the LiveFyre software so readers can comment live from events such as theatre shows and concerts.

As more companies enter the space, Cook believes there will be a shift in the way users interact.

"The interest in it is trying to find like-minded people. On Twitter you are broadening out to lots of people and is hard to get into conversation with people. For those who want to provide an opinion, these new media are trying to provide a space for interaction," Cook told CNBC.

However, some analysts are sceptical on newspapers' ability to generate income and business from LiveFyre's model.

"I don't think it will dramatically change social media landscape," Ian Maude, an online media analyst at Enders Analysis told CNBC. "I am curious ultimately what the revenue potential of these services is. The issue is that over time as more players come into the market, the price that LiveFyre is able to charge generally fall."

—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal