21 July 2007

Post-Capitalist Capitalism, Crowdsourcing, & the Democratization of Media

From Wired
Gannett to Crowdsource News
Jeff Howe
11.03.06
12:00 PM

The publisher of "America's newspaper" is turning to America to get its news.

According to internal documents provided to Wired News and interviews with key executives, Gannett, the publisher of USA Today as well as 90 other American daily newspapers, will begin
crowdsourcing many of its newsgathering functions. Starting Friday, Gannett newsrooms were rechristened "information centers," and instead of being organized into separate metro, state or sports departments, staff will now work within one of seven desks with names like "data," "digital" and "community conversation."

The initiative emphasizes four goals: Prioritize local news over national news; publish more user-generated content; become 24-7 news operations, in which the newspapers do less and the websites do much more; and finally, use crowdsourcing methods to put readers to work as watchdogs, whistle-blowers and researchers in large, investigative features.

"This is a huge restructuring for us," said Michael Maness, the VP for strategic planning of news and one of the chief architects of the project. According to an e-mail sent Thursday to Gannett news staff by CEO Craig Dubow, the restructuring has been tested in 11 locations throughout the United States, but will be in place throughout all of Gannett's newspapers by May. "Implementing the (Information) Center quickly is essential. Our industry is changing in ways that create great opportunity for
Gannett."
The article makes crowdsourcing sound promising - a way to reverse the drop of 30% in readers since 1985. And it is not the only model folks are tinkering with. (An example of how the Napster model could be adapted to newspapers, for instance, is mentioned here at co-render.) To me, it sounds like one of two things: either exploitative or incomplete. It could, in fact, be both.

Resorting to crowdsourcing - turning to readers for content - is actually a great example of the need for a corporate revolution. If the readers are going to become the writers, it suggests that ownership of the newspaper ought to be democratized as well. It is one thing for publishers to make exorbitant profits when they invest millions in complex and expensive publishing machinery and professional staff. It is quite another when the expense is Internet cheap and the staff is comprised of an odd hybrid of professionals and amateurs.

We've yet to fully embrace the implications of post-capitalist ownership. Distributing the ownership of the newspaper along with the work of creating it is just one of those implications.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You see, Ron. This was the exact knee jerk I had. Who the heck is getting PAID here?!!

I can see it now-- WELFARE STATE NEWS!! Heck-- it might even work if the welfare system would REALISTICALLY meet people's basic needs… LOL!

I just bought this flashlight that operates with a crank. Convert that into a bicycle for people's electricity needs and you halve cardiac patients, and obesity rates.

And we can build our schools and roads by passing around a pot at town hall.

I call it, "Scrutopia".

Anonymous said...

Heard about a surplus of rubbernecking at car crash sites-- people trying to snap shots with their cel phones, Ron, to sell to these news papers who use amateurs. These dim wits getting underfoot while law enforcement tries to rescue the injured are getting fined hundreds.

Yup! Everybody wants to be a superstar. You people in Hollywood who spread insecurity-- you are responsible for this. And the people who payed good money to train as reporters? They can just rot in Hell, huh? I hope our government is prepared to write of all those student loans!!!

All this nonsense, it's greed motivated. If it weren't we'd simply be restructuring the education system and allocating funds to streamlining industry. We'd be going to the source of the problems, not the source of the money.

exskindiver said...

i have had half a bottle of red wine.
am still away...
and i can not for the life of me understand this post.
anonymous 1 & 2 are obviously smarter.
they must be women. ;)

exskindiver said...

shucks, i meant to make that anonymous.

ThomasLB said...

The people most likely to participate in "mob news" are those with extremist viewpoints. Imagine getting all your news from Daily KOS and Free Republic.

I envision a future of tiny little Balkanized communities that can't get along.

Anonymous said...

Thomas, this is what the internet was a few years back, in every single community I visited. It has changed considerably since then, I might add.

But at it's core, the internet remains the same dissenting group of people who desperately need leadership, and are unable to accept this reality because of deep seated issues too varied to outline here. It's like several million people running away with a stolen crown. Quite entertaining, actually, if only because every last one of them fancies himself king.

We can thank too many years of corrupt leadership for this chaos.

Dave said...

Using different buzz words, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has earlier this year done something similar. Less real live reporters, more web "content" which seems to be to be trying to out "USAToday," USAToday and most articles having a feedback, blogpost, comment feature.

The AJC has never been very good, it has finally decided that it will officially pander to the lowest common denominator.