Crowdsourcing. Is it Worth the Effort?

Yes! I know, I know, I should have waited until the end to answer the title question, but the truth is Crowdsourcing is an extremely powerful tool for any journalist.  It can be time intensive and riddled with pit traps (I shudder at the journalist who doesn’t cross-check crowdsourced info), but if you do it right your work will be better because of it.


Before we go any further lets ensure that everyone is on the same page with the definition of crowdsourcing.  This is what I learned from a recent study done by the Columbia Journalism University. Crowdsourcing is an active (that’s right active) method of gaining information from a group of people (yup people).

Crowdsourcing is NOT data mining on social media accounts.  If you solicit a group of people for information then you are crowdsourcing, but if you mine twitter posts then you neither actively engage your audience nor interact with people.


Okay, so if mining tweets or Facebook posts don’t count as Crowdsourcing then how do journalists use crowdsourcing?

  • The Guardian enlists the aid of the community to go through public documents cdf51b15c3d99b45b4bf10029b2f9664c87fe1d0bc96a99e2203345685f61ffbsearching for the needles in a monumental haystack
  • Radio personalities enlist the aid of drivers to determine current traffic problems
  • Publications release contests or open calls for work
  • Journalists create public Facebook, twitter (and other social media) profiles to build up their following and start conversations.
  • TaprootYEG (an online news source) uses an upvote system from its members to determine story priority.
  • News Media asks for video, pictures, and eye witness reports from members of their social media following during breaking news events.
  • Facebook polls are conducted (much like the streeters of old)
  • CBC allows for comments on their news stories, inviting their followers to take part in the conversation.

What do you think?  Are their reasons journalists shouldn’t be using crowdsourcing techniques?  I still think the positives are greater than the negatives, but i’m curious about what you have to say.





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