Gannett to Turn Readers into Newsgatherers


Wired published an article about Gannett using crowdsourcing to lower content costs and leverage readers as free workers:

Gannett, the publisher of USA Today as well as 90 other American daily newspapers, will begin crowdsourcing many of its newsgathering functions.

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.

As search algorithms and efficient advertising erode the margins on traditional media monopolies those companies are going to rely on community participation to cut costs.

Poynter published the internal Gannet restructuring memo online.

Questions and observations:

  • If the mainstream media uses the reader as an editor can they still claim that they are any better than blogs or other bottoms up media channels?
  • As people begin spamming these mainstream media sites to bits how will that change Google's current over-reliance on domain authority?
  • If this catches on will it still be worth the effort required to try to be first with the news? Or will most profitable pundits analyze the news?
  • If news largely becomes a bottoms up algorithmic problem how will traditional media companies be able to compete with Google? Especially if most of them feed into Google and become reliant on Google as a source of traffic? Will Google give many media companies kickbacks to keep them in business until they bankrupt the business model? Will Google pay for traditional news the way they are paying for video?


For the media, search

For the media, search engines are the classic case of "cant live with em and cant live without em". The monster they have to feed could eventually devour them. Google/Y!/MSN can just as easily adapt "crowdsourcing" and beat them at their own game.

Spamming USA Today

Spamming USA Today to get you "message" in front of millions of people ...

{graywolf lickin' his chops and drooling at the opportunity}

Mmmmmmmm Links

I got some A1 sauce for those LinkChops graywolf.

Shortsighted stupidity will

Shortsighted stupidity will once again deter innovation. Now if I can only get my dogs to stop eating their own vomit...


This will open the way for competition on the local level - even for micro markets. For decades local dailies in the US have been swallowed up by the big newspaper chains. Until those papers no longer really cover the different communities but cover whole regions instead and regurgitate stories off the AP wire. If the battleground changes from print to website carrying most of the news and the newsgatherers change from jornos to man on the street, then you have drastically lowered the bar for entry by competitiors. You also open the way for just about every one horse town to have their own news website.

The "Establishment" must be quaking intheir boots.

The "Establishment" must be quaking in their boots.

Trust Me Brad, they have been quaking since the day Matt Drudge started pushing the agenda for print and TV media rather than vice versa.

If the battleground changes

If the battleground changes from print to website carrying most of the news and the newsgatherers change from jornos to man on the street, then you have drastically lowered the bar for entry by competitiors. You also open the way for just about every one horse town to have their own news website.

The "Establishment" must be quaking intheir boots.

Happened a year or so ago in larger makets. And no coincidence the way the local print media in those markets formed alliances with cross-town daily's, and stepped further into local politics, because thru politics they can deter competition (or so they think).

The counter to that is grass roots, which must be countered at the ISP and propaganda level. You see those activities well underway also. The counter to that, is that everyone and anyone can put up a blog.

Good comments but way off the mark

It seems the assumption that most posters are making is that newspapers are abandoning reporters and going to the masses for their content. Where did this idea come from. Did anyone read all the pages of the internal Gannet restructuring memo?

The idea is that newsrooms will be 24/7 operations geared to being able to constantly update their websites, mobile devices, etc. Todays newsrooms are geared to a once daily paper which doesn't work well in todays Interactive landscape. There will be community involvment with comments, blogs, etc. but this is only part of the plan and probably a small part. This 24/7 updated newsroom will be great for readers and advertisers!

In essence, Gannett is adapting to a 24/7 connected world. Don't overread the user generated content. That's a given and just a part of the plan. Most online newspapers already have reader comments. This just takes that idea to it's next logical level where readers can write their own stories about their local neighborhoods, schools, kids' sports teams, etc. But the 'paper' is still going to provide the vast majority of the content (from the external reporters such as the AP or the paper's own reporters).

It's simply the next step in news dissemenation. Think CNN from your the once a day evening news.

It's about getting a converstaion with locals

In terms of changing the newsroom, it's about "tearing down the walls to the world formerly known as the outside" says Jeff Jarvis.

They are aiming for a conversation with locals. Instead of just hearing the news people can interact with it and contribute to it. They can also have that conversation with locals.

It's very smart imo, if you look at what goes into assembling a news story... the facts then some comments from authority spokespeople and sometimes eye witness accounts or local perspectives.

At the moment, a journalist has to work out who to get comments from, what the angle will be and gather it all together and write the story.

This opens the situation up so journalists will still be writing the story, but there will be less work in running around for comments and the same story can be run in several regional areas, with a different local comment for each respective region.

For example, if fuel prices jump 10%, the resulting article I read online in my suburb will likely have a comment from local politicians and a comment from someone who lives in my suburb or a local business owner describing the impact. But when you read it, say for example in another state... the comments will come from completely different people local to your geo-targeted location.

At the moment, it's too much running around to get all those comments... but open the lines of communication up and do it online... it becomes more than possible. Then after reading the article I can make my own 'comment' on the end of the version of the article I read. As the day goes on, if a great comment is submitted, it can potentially be swapped into the story as it becomes the best 'local' perspective. Once a lot of comments or contributions roll in. A journalist can decide on the phase two story that has emerged from the original article and submissions and comments and much of the work has been done for them in terms of content to re-frame the article with a more accurate / updated angle.

Now I'm talking a year or two into it but you can see where this will let them take news online. The 'conversation' is the new goalpost and localising a conversation is personalising that conversation.

It's going to save journalists a lot of time initially and make a new workload for the publisher, but ultimately make for better news coverage and empower citizens.

The idea that a news room can be transformed into an information centre is really exciting. Since they are also talking about multi-media, consider also that you could watch a video comment submitted by your neighbour as part of the news package.

If you want to get links from these authority sites now while the going is good... get involved now and send press releases to journalists with your comments and a link to your site.

I think the opportunity is greater now to take advantage of news websites than it will be in the future because you will have to work harder to be the 'authority' spokesperson whose link is included. Once this new model really gets rolling and the lines of communication are open they will have several comments to pick from and go with the most authoritive and locally relevant source.

The Guardian has been banging away at getting a 'conversation' with Comment is Free. That was the first major salvo... the Gannett move is the most significant and serious development to date though.

What else could they do:
1. Pay their best content contributors.
2. Introduce a peer review / pick-up rate / authority score algo to determine which spokespeople get their comment and content eyeballed by journalists... first or included (sort of like a forum reputation system).

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