A lesson on Howe to (or Howe not to) appreciate crowdsourcing

Jeff Howe, a Nieman Fellow this past year at Harvard University who is currently teaching a multimedia graduate class at Northeastern University, guest-lectured during Friday’s class. Howe covers the media and entertainment industry. But, most importantly, he has reported on the phenomenon known as crowdsourcing in his blog and on Twitter.

In its simplest form, crowdsourcing is citizen journalism that uses the audience in the newsgathering process. Crowdsourcing has originated from the people who are former customers. In other words, the audience has self-organized into productive units, Howe said.

Howe: The power of the crowd is driving the future of business.

On the positive side, crowdsourcing can be an effective tool for newsgathering, article and media creation and self-promotion. (Self-promotion is a part of all journalists’ roles, whether we like it or not). On the negative side, crowdsourcing is leading to job losses for many people. It is a big threat. For example, the company crowdSPRING is a graphic design company. If a client wants a design, the company’s sketchers go to work. But,

“The sketch you like gets the money. Everyone else gets zilch,” Howe said.

In other words, crowdSPRING uses crowdsourcing. This phenomenon is occurring because people are dying to break into a given industry and compete, Howe said.

As for Twitter, Howe has had to push his graduate students to use the social media tool as a “receiving dish” to obtain news and to go “behind-the-scenes.”

“We like Twitter because we can read 100-word summaries, as opposed to 10-page articles,” he said. “Twitter lets you in the newsroom to know what these guys are thinking.”

Howe said he is more pro than con about crowdsourcing because it assists journalists in the production process – obtaining tips, sources and additional facts and information.

“As print voices shrink and fall off the map, we need to tap our audience,” he said. “The Fourth Estate should be a large organization with millions of voices, with diverse brains attacking one problem. I don’t think the audience will be the downfall to this industry ultimately.”

First inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Second inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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