Journalism and Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is becoming big in journalism. I use it myself to write articles and blog posts.

One of the growing trends across multiple industries is crowdsourcing. The idea that you can have more than one person working on your project at once, combining human knowledge and expertise, is one that finds a home for companies interested in getting more for less.

This idea also applies in the writing industry. More and more, I'm seeing media sites make use of crowdsourcing for content. Think of sites that actively seek writers to provide them with content in exchange for the legitimacy that comes with writing for a site like U.S. News & World Report or Huffington Post.

Money rarely changes hands in these interactions. Plus, because of syndication agreements, the content you provide for one site for free, might end up on another site. I've seen stuff I've been paid for at one site end up on MSN Money (no further payment to me) and stuff I've written for free end up on Yahoo! Finance, thanks to content sharing agreements. This is crowdsourcing taken to the next level.

For some, this isn't a bad thing; after all, it's not always about making a buck. Sometimes you move beyond your mercenary mindset in the hopes that you can boost your credibility and visibility.

journalism and crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing in Journalism

Individual journalists and bloggers also use crowdsourcing for their stories. I've seen requests from writers paid by major mainstream news outlets ask for tips from bloggers. If the journalist can get 10 bloggers to provide one tip each, the result can be an entire article devoted to tips — and the journalist gets paid for it.

You have to decide whether or not the time you spend to (maybe, but not always) get a link is worth the trouble and time to respond.

Another way that crowdsourcing is used in journalism is to find expert sources. I do this all the time with the help of HARO. You put out a call, and several qualified experts provide you with information. There are two main ways that this works:

  1. The information/quotes come right to you. The expert responds to your query with usable information that basically allows you to copy and paste without further ado. Since you have several responses, you can pick and choose what works best for your article (or blog post).
  2. Find suitable experts to interview. Another way to use crowdsourcing is to find suitable experts. Each response gives you an idea of what's out there, and then you can choose the person (or people) you want to interview.

Of course, taking the second route involves a little more work on your part, since you still have to actively interview your source. When it comes to “real” journalism, I think that you are doing a little better job at it if you actually interview the source. I make a distinction between simply going through responses emailed to your inbox and finding a source and then doing the work to interview that source.

That belief doesn't stop me from using crowdsourcing in the first manner, though.

I find that crowdsourcing is a great help to me in my career. While I occasionally feel a bit of a twinge at the way I use crowdsourcing to complete assignments, I do actually interview people when it comes to something “serious” — and high-paying.

When it comes to writing, and how I approach different projects and clients, dollar signs often dictate the method used. I'll put more effort into a high-paying gig than I will into something that doesn't pay as well. It's mercenary, but it's also life. To tell the truth, it's what allows me to mostly arrange my schedule the way I want to. Better efficiency means more money for less time spent. Crowdsourcing can help a freelance writer achieve that efficiency.

As journalism progresses alongside technology, and as traditional media becomes less profitable and more is moved to the Internet, you can expect to see more crowdsourcing in journalism — and more blurred lines between bloggers and journalists.

4-Week Journalism School

0 thoughts on “Journalism and Crowdsourcing”

  1. Alaina Tweddale

    Wow — this is so much more efficient than the route I usually take to find experts. I’m excited to try it out. Thanks for the tip.

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