Crowdsourced Journalism: The End of Media as We Know It? [Forbes]

/// Crowdsourced Journalism: The End of Media as We Know It? [Forbes]

May 20, 2011  |  Blog

I read my first issue of The Atlantic in 2008, when they ran a cover story called “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Despite being a late adopter, I haven’t missed an issue since. It’s one of the best magazines out there, and is probably the leader among the “general think” mags when it comes to digital. They offer readers a consistently provocative and insightful point-of-view, both in their print version and on their website.

Now, they’re bringing some of that provocative spirit – and digital expertise – into the way magazine is put together. Through an experimental initiative called Open Wire, they’re essentially crowdsourcing the content of their website, inviting readers to share their story ideas, tips, links, and angles with the magazine’s editors and reporters.

I don’t think you can overstate how radical a step this is. The Atlantic is one of the oldest magazines in America. Their website is one of the most carefully and effectively curated in the industry. And they’ve just invited all of us in to take part.

This actually reminds me a lot of our original Mountain Dew Dewmocracy campaign. We invited the public to vote on which flavor of Mountain Dew we’d release next – essentially handing the keys to the brand over to our fans. It was seen as a big risk at the time, but for us it was a huge success, resulting in the best-selling limited-time offer in PepsiCo history.

Now, I hope things work out as well with Open Wire for The Atlantic as they did for us with Dewmocracy. But that raises a very powerful question: What if Open Wire does work out? What if crowdsourcing turns out to be a hugely successful way to curate a website? What does that mean for the editors and reporters who are paid to do that job? Do they become simply – or maybe not so simply – crowdsource managers? And where do you stop? If the crowd can edit a website, could it also edit the print edition?

Again, I think The Atlantic is doing us all a favor with Open Wire in helping us figure out the answers to some of these questions. As the crowd shows its wisdom in more and more contexts – and I believe it will – these issues are going to be increasingly relevant to all organizations. Clearly, the crowd is a resource. But no one knows just how powerful it might turn out to be. Stay tuned…

B. Bonin Bough

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