Traditional Media Scramble Towards Crowdsourcing

20 Mar 2007|Leigh Marinner

Yesterday’s New York Times had a story by David Carr about Assignment Zero, a new collaboration between Wired magazine and an experimental journalism site at NYU. The idea is to apply to journalism the same open-source model as Linux and Wikipedia. Very interesting, but this has been happening for several years.

The best Katrina photos and videos shown on major TV networks were user-generated. MetroBlogging is a wireless blogging service in 43 worldwide cities that lets bloggers post first-person accounts of news events, like the July 2005 London bombings. There is also an online newspaper in Asia that has been successful using only user-generated content. I believe readers vote on the content and payment is made for the most desired content.

Web 2.0 and user-generated content can edge out old media with the volunteer labor of amateurs who are rewarded by peer acknowledgement and the satisfaction of seeing their work used. Before Web 2.0, group communication was limited to geeks. We’re just beginning to realize how productive the hive can be and how powerful it is when it swarms in a particular direction. Take a couple examples: 1) Mash-ups are allowing people to weave applications together and create information that people want. E.g. Platial lets users create meaningful maps by associating information tags such as restaurant locations. Other mash-ups associate information with photos so you can look for a town in Mexico and see what others have liked there. 2) Social search is becoming a reality in many different blogs and communities that leverage recommendations from like minds. The challenge is finding the right communities, blogs and RSS feeds to target 3) The opinions of a large number of “normal” people can better predict outcomes than experts.

I think the challenge of journalism will become more a matter of editing and selecting the information to present from a wide range of sources, reporters being only one of them. What readers want from a newspaper or information site is intelligently presented sifting of the masses of information out there, coming from an identified point of view.

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