We Are The Future

17 02 2008

Some in the mainstream media have been slow to recognise the paradigm shift in the way we receive and digest our news. Blogging has long been under attack from the mainstream media, on the grounds that allowing unregulated individuals to contribute to the news discussion somehow undermines it.

In yet another step towards showing this up as the fallacy it is, CNN has launched iReport.com. It’s still in beta but I think it’s a fascinating development, and one that should interest bloggers everywhere, even those not particularly of a technological persuasion. Most bloggers will at some point use their blog as a soapbox to speak up about an issue, even if their blog isn’t particularly political or news-based.

Of course user-generated content has some inherent flaws. The reliability of Wikipedia as a source has long been questioned. Certainly I know many people who would never rely on it for important information, and I definitely know I don’t. However I do refer to it very regularly and find it an incredibly useful source for trivia. When it comes to pop culture or sports the information in Wikipedia is often pretty accurate. Generally there’s little reason to doubt the validity of information that isn’t technical in nature.

Applied to iReport it would be interesting to see if a similar trend developed there, where news on sports or entertainment was highly accurate but more technical things like economics or science would be less reliable. Experience suggests that where a major event happens suddenly and unexpectedly, such as 9/11 or the Virginia Tech massacre, user-generated news content could be incredibly useful. I remember home videos, from video cameras and mobile phones, being used extensively to report 9/11.

Without those I suspect the true impact of events would have been hard to report as nobody was on the scene quickly enough. Not only that, but my experience with Twitter has brought me news before it’s even broken on conventional news sites. Admittedly when the news of Ledger’s death broke, I didn’t actually believe it at first, yet as more people Tweeted about it I believed it. I suspect iReport would be the same.

What really interested me, however, and I think will really interest the bloggers out there, is the idea that iReport users may find their contributions, once suitably edited or censored as needed, actually used on CNN.com or perhaps even on TV. Although we blog for ourselves, clearly we also do it in the hopes of reaching a wider audience.

Imagine your contribution on a major news network. You could reach the world.



8 responses

17 02 2008
reasonable robinson

The reaction of Big Media to blogging is entirely down to the underlying philosophy that it works on. In business philosophy terms its is Modernist and as such it attempts to regulate in order to control, and reacts against anything that is beyond its control.

The stuff of MBAs and the driver of ‘managerialsim’. – Hiss boo!

Blogging is the 21st century equivalent of 18th century ‘pamphleteering’ something that Jurgen Habermas (Critical Theory) thought had been lost with the Disneyfication of society and the dominance of Big Media.

The skill of the reader to determine quality, authority, and vearcity for themsleves is something that Big Media arrogantly claims it can do for us. Well, they would say that wouldn’t they, as the more they dull our critical faculties the easier we become to manipulate.

Wake up folks and Blog loud and strong!!!!!! Blogging is bad because it is Unregulated? who is setting the regulations and why do they want to?!!!

17 02 2008

“Some in the mainstream media have been slow to recognise the paradigm shift in the way we receive and digest our news.”
Hmmm…. O.K. Pres. You know that I know that you are a pretty smart cat. And, as such, you are hedging your bet here by using the word “some” in your premise. Of course, if you put “some” in front of any statement about a group of people, your statement can never be disproved. “Some” lawyers are good guys.
So, you are muckraking and, yeah…I’ll bite.
Let’s take “some” out of there.
The mainstream media have been slow to recognise the paradigm shift in the way we receive and digest our news.
Do you think so? Do you think that these people, journalists, news selling organizations-have been slow to recognise a “paradigm shift” or, unable to see a way to deal with one that is obvious.
C’mon, the news biz, like every other industry that relies on “content”, knows it’s here and knew it was coming.
Va. Tech, 9/11, Tsunami-With all of these events, CNN’s and every other network’s coverage was thick with content furnished by the unwashed masses. CNN doesn’t need iReport as a way to attain such content.

From the iReport link…

“Registered members on iReport.com can become ‘Superstar iReporters’: the top 20 percent of the site’s members each week, determined by a tally of members’ contributions, ratings, popularity and site activity.”

Further encouragement for anyone who has a cellphone to join the worldwide junior league paparazzi. You can be a “Superstar” for being in the right place at the right time.

The great myth of all of these “paradigm shifts” is that there is an underlying spirit of altruism. That we, the populace of the brave new world, will do the right things for the right reasons.

iReport is one more way to capitalize on the myth.

“Meet the new boss…”

17 02 2008
Mr President

Actually I used some because I honestly believe it is “some”. That earlier piece I wrote about regulating the blogosphere was inspired by a piece I read on a newspaper’s website, I forget which newspaper now, about how blogs were “dangerous” in their unregulated state.

Others have reacted differently and embraced the changes. Note, I’m talking about individuals in the news media here, not the companies themselves, which have actually seen this as the potentially untapped goldmine it is. Let’s not forget, these companies didn’t get to their current positions of dominance without business savvy and things like this have the potential to make them even more money.

I’ll certainly wear the criticism of my choice of words, “slow to recognise” was clearly the wrong choice of words. My meaning was more to do with being slow to develop means to really “capture” all this content. True enough, the content’s been out there for a long long time, there’s nothing new or revolutionary in that, but certainly this is the first effort I’ve seen by a news company to have uncensored, unedited user content. That’s the bit I think is a big deal.

CNN doesn’t need iReport at all, nor was I suggesting it does. We, the users who generate the content, will be the true beneficiaries. In much the same way as blogging gives us access to so many more editorials on the news, this will give us something similar in one place. Nor do I believe that there’s anything altruistic here at all, this is not some trumpet-blowing piece about the wonders of “Web 2.0”

This was really just an editorial about something I thought was of great interest. Naturally for what I will admit was largely a “puff piece” there’s a great deal of hyperbole but I think this is still an interesting evolution in the way we as news consumers interact with the news products we buy. Ultimately this was a business decision by CNN and a good one.

17 02 2008

Forgive me Pres. Part of what I was doing was a little cage rattling on a cold, rainy, slow, Ozark morning.

However, I really can’t see this as an effort by a news company to have uncensored, unedited user content.

The bit about ‘Superstar iReporters’ being rewarded for number of contributions and popularity, to me, is a clear indication that CNN is, once again, engaging in the business of creating news. Not only that, it seems like they are encouraging the public to do the dirty work on the tabloid side of the operation.

Even worse, where a true tabloid would pay for this kind of reportage, CNN will have foot soldiers for free.

17 02 2008
Mr President

I think this part on the iReport site is what sold me (somewhat) on the idea that this is uncensored, unedited user content:

“Welcome to a brand new beta site for uncensored, user-powered news. CNN built the tools, you take it from there. All the stories here are user-generated and instant: CNN does not vet or verify their authenticity or accuracy before they post. The ones with the “On CNN” stamp have been vetted and used in CNN news coverage.”

Admittedly there’s a heck of a lot of selling going on there and yes, I have no doubt CNN will use this to create news off the back of the user contributions in order to have the dirty work of the news reporting done for free. However the content that doesn’t have the “On CNN” stamp is still user-generated, and is uncensored and unedited.

Of course I have no doubt that part of the licensing will require you to grant CNN usage rights. Whether you wish to grant them those rights is up to you. On the one hand, you’re going to be potentially capable of reaching a broader audience than your blog can. No matter how many people can theoretically see your blog, the reality is it’s not read by the same number of people who read CNN.com. We all know that.

On the other you lose all editorial rights to your content. Sure, this saves CNN some legwork but they’ll still have to verify everything before broadcast. The choice, though, is yours. Are you willing to trade the editorial control in order to reach more people?

For me the “Superstar iReporters” thing is simply a gimmick to drive people to contribute more content, particularly good content. Nothing particularly odd about that, Wikipedia has super-contributors. Many community sites such as forums have a hierarchy of users, driven primarily by activity. I’m not seeing this as malevolent.

CNN will benefit our of this, of course they will. It’s like the Casinos in Vegas, the house always wins. Sometimes, though, every so often, someone wins big. Who knows? Perhaps out of all this what started off as a CNN money-making (or rather money-saving) scheme may end up backfiring and being really beneficial to the users? Time will tell.

17 02 2008

If we were in the pub, this is the point where I would say: “I’m buying the next round”.
Here’s to you.

17 02 2008
Mr President

I always enjoy our little chats, and this one was no different. You’re always insightful and even if we don’t agree on something (which in itself is pretty rare) your comments make me rethink my own views and generally help my ideas evolve and become more nuanced.

The next next round’s on me.

19 02 2008
Andy D

Good article and good debate.

I think the comparison to Wikipedia is not far off the mark. I wouldn’t rely on Wiki for my sole source of information, but in many cases it is a great place to start. The same thing with blogs. I wouldn’t rely on them as my only source, but they usually are a great jumping off point.

As more and more professionals (in all walks of life) start blogging, I think the overall reputation of the blogging community will improve.

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