When crowdsourcing meets broadcasting

Crowdsourcing is the term coined to describe using an audience to generate some form of content, from simple feedback to fully fledged stories or artistic creations.

CNN is now poised to put its broadcast — and online — muscle behind an experiment in crowdsourcing as MediaWeek reports:

“Time Warner’s CNN this week will enter YouTube territory with the launch of iReport.com, a new Web site built entirely on user-produced news. And unlike CNN’s own properties—where only iReport submissions that have been handpicked by editors and checked for accuracy ever make it online or on air—the new site will be wide open, allowing users to post whatever content they choose, CNN said.”

Susan Grant, executive vp of CNN News Services told MediaWeek the site would not rush to look for advertising opportunities in part perhaps because advertisers may be leery of putting their brands into this content mosh pit.

This is not an isolated development. It is my sense that broadcasters have embraced user-participation far more aggressively than print media perhaps because the new-found ease of video production and uploading strikes that industry as a novelty. It used to be difficult to freelance as a videographer. It’s getting less so.

As another example along these lines MTV got a grant from the Knight Foundation to create an election-site drawing on citizen contributors. (details).

I’ve blogged in the past (but can’t find the reference now) about how local broadcasters have been beefing up their web sites and gaining traffic at the expense of local newspaper sites. Print had an early advantage in getting web traffic because it was easier to repost words and photos than it was to either contribute or distribute video. That is changing. And fast. (Get a whiff of this in a post titled “TV & Radio facing news revolution“ from Ken Kaplan.

As communication migrates from the literal to the audiovisual broadcast websites could easily leapfrog print websites as magnets for attention. Broadcasters have a great medium for pushing people to their web sites. And once viewers get to the web it’s easier to downland and watch a video than to wrap one’s mind around words.

So here CNN throws open its doors. ““This is an opportunity to create a relationship with a global audience,” said the CNN exec behind the project.

It’s an interesting experiment. I’m not aware of anything of a similar scale being conducted by a newspaper.