Sportsmen 2.0 : The use of twitter by sportsmen

Antoine Harari

For many people, Twitter is little more than just another social network that was added after the Facebook frenzy. This is why more than a quarter of the 500 millions users possess inactive accounts. However, as this article demonstrates, sportsmen of all kind capitalised on the opportunities Twitter provides. Far from being a hindrance, the ability to only use 140 characters actually suits sportsmen, as it replicates the standard answer given in a post match interview. It was initially sold to them as an excellent way to promote their career and strengthen their relationship with their fan base, and by adding pictures of themselves in their daily lives, it allowed fans to relate to these figures that were, in many ways, just like them. Here lies one of the numerous twitter paradoxes: in a world where sportsmen are more protected than ever before, Twitter provides a way of infiltrating their star life.

There is also a negative side to the technology however, and Twitter has also provided a clear demonstration that athletes should think twice before ‘shooting from the hip’. and writing what they think. The number of headlines created by sportsmen’s tweets are already hard to count, one thing is certain: for some football players, the microblogging website is a way to shout out loud what they are thinking at any time of the day.

Football’s two most famous examples are Joey Barton and Rio Ferdinand.

@Joey7Barton

There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

Joey Barton official twitter account

 

Rio Ferdinand official Twitter Account

 

The impact on the franchise’s public relation :

Given the professionalisation of sport franchises, football club’s internal policies are regularly breached by their players’ emotional tweets and their communication strategies are severely compromised. A recent example is the football player Djibril Cissé who got offended by the reamark from one of his supporters  suggesting that he couldn’t hit “a cow’s a** with a banjo.” Cissé then tweeted the exact address of his club’s training ground and invited the supporter to: “come and have a little chat.” This is a story which resembles the scandal involving Wayne Rooney, who threatened to silence, permanently, a Liverpool supporter who insulted him via his Twitter account.

‘I will put u asleep within 10 seconds hope u turn up if u don’t gonna tell everyone ur scared u little nit. I’ll be waiting.’


Though the majority of these tweets are uninteresting, some of them have put entire national federations into trouble. The most recent episode was the clash between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand; the story started with the accusation of Rio’s brother Anton that the Chelsea defender had racially abused him.

The story became so big that Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand were soon implicated. The first intervened in support of John Terry but his testimony was deemed untrustworthy by the English Federation.  Angered by the decision of the FA, Ashley Cole tweeted : “Oh yeaaaah that’s right I lied.. Bunch of t****”. Although he and his club presented their apologies almost immediately, Cole was condemned to pay a £130,000 fine. In the meantime, infuriated by Cole’s testimony, Rio Ferdinand labelled him a “Choc Ice”, a slang term denoting a black man with ‘white’ sympathies. Many London newspapers talked about the story for weeks and to say that it didn’t look good is an understatement. In Switzerland there was a similar affair during the Olympics, when a Swiss national player in the bitterness of a loss against South Korea lost his sense and tweeted :

“I want to beat up all South Koreans ! Bunch of mentally handicapped retards ! ”

Immediately after the outburst, the player’s account was closed  and he was banned from the national team.

Morganella twitter outburst

The use of companies to maintain ghost accounts :

The increasing influence of sportsmen leads to an expansion in their marketing potential, not slow to envisage the effect Twitter could have,  sponsors soon realised the potential lying behind specific accounts, and the vast swathes of population they could interact with. With 14 million followers, Cristiano Ronaldo is among the highest profile football tweeters.Not surprisingly, Cristiano Ronaldo is regularly advertising Nike products directly on Twitter, complete with pictures and comments for his fans.

Cristiano and his new shoes

 

The most recent one shows him playing all kind of instruments and wearing different football kits. The use of social network as a commercial tool is increasing and its should come as no surprise.Logo of the company In the case of Cristiano Ronaldo we can talk of the use of  a ‘ghost writer’ for his account. One of the reasons behind this statement is that his tweets are mostly advertising, and not very frequent Furthermore, the use of perfect English makes it hard to believe that it is entirely the work of Cristiano himself. Doubt becomes certainty when we read a disclaimer added on his profile saying that:  Digital Artist entertainment inc. is in charge of the content of the account, but also that they can use the personal data of his followers and sell them to other companies.  This company is one of the many that proposes to ‘take care’ of an individual’s Twitter account for a certain prize, and also to post a certain number of tweets every week depending on the agreement.
Company offering ghost twitter services

The Twitter paradox :

Here we can see the controversial character of athletes’ use of Twitter : on one hand we have the impossible task for the major club’s PR to limit the damage created by their players’ outbursts. On the other hand, however, the use of Twitter as a new tool of advertisement is hard to deny. Whilst the fan is informed on a daily basis of what his idol thinks, simultaneously, under the cover of a fake bond, diverse companies are trying to promote their merchandise. These are the two extremes that you can find on the microblogging website. In a way we could argue that the outbursts of athletes are true to real life conversations, and therefore that they are the ultimate proof that we are dealing with real human beings that possess feelings and are not afraid to express them. In fact, without this, would Twitter just be a boring ensemble of diverse hidden advertisement pages? The real fans would then see no interest in the social network as it would fulfil the same kind of role as a fan page on Facebook.

Twitter also allows us to learn things about players that they would never be revealed in a formal interview.  It is interesting to speculate on the future of the sport’s own response to Twitter. Will it be to restrict the player’s access to social networks? Or rather to give them communication courses on what can and can’t be said on the web? When we see the PR manager of Liverpool Jen Chang being sacked because he threatened a fan to cancel his season ticket it does raises some questions. One thing is clear to this writer however, between the politically incorrect account of Joey Barton and the incredibly boring account of Cristiano Ronaldo my choice is quickly made and I hope yours is too.

1  Ben Dir’s Blog on BBC Website : http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bendirs/2011/01/twitter_blog.html

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Watching TV on two screens

Because one screen is not enough, even more people don’t only watch TV passively anymore. Laptop on the knees, it became normal to surf on the web while watching intermittently TV.

Nowadays, the so-called Second Screen applications appear on our tablets, giving additional informations linked with the TV’s main program. Useful ?

A familiy watching religiously at TV in the 50’s. Past times. Nowadays, one screen is not enough anymore.

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2009/10/31/article-1224231-0706B500000005DC-601_634x512.jpg

http://sociable.co/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/second-screen-vizio-tv-ipad3-750×375.jpg

What does the Second Screen brings to us viewers ?

The second screen provides additional informations, in link with what you’re watching on your TV. An international example are the 2012 London Olympics, an event during witch several main TVs transmitted content about the results of the athletes during the broadcasting on the Second Screen.

The Guardian Second Screen, on tablet

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2012/8/2/1343916747800/Second-screen-experience-fo.jpg

Second Screen experiences in Switzerland

A swiss example : the RTS “deuxième écran”

In February 2012, the Radio Télévision Suisse launch its own Second Screen system. Up to now, only one program uses the application : the daily evening news “19:30”. During the program, each time a report is broadcasted, complements become available on the application.

Lets have a look at how it works :

From the RTS website mainpage “deuxième écran” section can be found in “Les plus du web”

Or, it’s possible to acess to it directly following this link.

How does the RTS “deuxième écran” looked like for today’s 19:30 ?

Want to know more about Christian Varone topic ? The second screen gives you more elements.

The second screen doesn’t only proposes texts, but also graphics (for the elections periods for example), videos, pictures galleries, and all wich supports the web can provide.

A video made by the RTS about the “deuxième écran” at the moment of it’s launch :

http://www.rts.ch/video/emissions/grand-angle/3956695-le-deuxieme-ecran-du-19h30.html

Playing with Second Screen

 

In December, the RTS will launch it’s new general culture game “Les Imbattables”.

The game itself isn’t very innovative (teams composed by a kid and a senior try to answer questions in a quiz). What’s new is the possibility for the viewer to answer actively to the questions on a tablet, trough the Second Screen. As the question is displayed on the TV screen, it appears also on the tablet with the possibility to answer to it.

RTS future game “Les Imbattables” will use since December 2012 the Second Screen technology.

Usefull, the Second Screen ?

Looking at the swiss example of the 19:30 “Deuxième écran”, it certainly provides some additional informations. The graphics are for example interesting, since they appear quite quickly on TV, sometimes too fast to be analysed properly.

But it appears that most of the content of this RTS Second Screen remains quite light, with just short texts, and the videos simply come from the swiss television website. There are no additional videos coming from youtube or dailymotion, no links : nothing that can really bring the user to new way of knowledge.

The Second Screen is but quite a new born. Some time more should be needed in order to see the concept further developed in the future. The TV broadcasters believe in the future of this technology. As does for example David Wertheimer, president of digital at Fox :

The second screen discussion we’ve been having is just one piece of a strategy that’s all about giving our audiences an opportunity to talk about the shows and share thoughts with the showrunners and the talent. To us, that’s what television in the 21st century is all about.

From : http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/15/showbiz/tv/second-screen-tv-our-mobile-society/index.html

David Wertheimer, president of digital at Fox, believes in the future of the Second Screen.

http://www.adweek.com/files/news_article/first-mover-david-wertheimer-hed-2012.jpg?1345387748

And you,

Are you using Second Screen ? Or do you want to stay an oldschool « couch potatoe » ?

Before Second Screen: couch potatoes. What’s the best ?

http://narcoosseefl.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/couch-potato-kid.jpg

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Social TV in Switzerland

By Sandy Sulmoni

The new trend? Surfing in internet while you watch TV. But not to get distracted in the net. It’s to do more: interacting with other people and commenting the TV content. Welcome in the era of Social TV!

  • Television + second screen + interaction = social TV

You don’t have to wait for the coffee break of the next day if you want to talk about what you watched on TV, or share the couch with someone else. Thanks to social media, blogs, apps, etc., you can easily comment and discuss TV content live. That’s the goal of Social TV, no matter if it is with Notebooks, Smartphones, or other “second screens”.

Picture modified.
Original Photo: http://www.anywab.com

Let’s check out a Swiss example. The program “Giacobbo/Müller” on the Schweizer Fernsehen has a personal hashtag on Twitter. During a past broadcast, some users shared their opinions about the hosts, but many more discussed the ugly tie worn by one of the two moderators. As this example shows, in some cases reading the comments can be as entertaining as the program itself.

If you speak a little bit of German, I invite you to watch this video summarizing this new way of watching TV, produced by the German broadcaster ARD.

  •  Is the Swiss audience modern?

Could we be lagging behind? This phenomenon is on the rise in our country. I’m sure that if I ask how many of you have already used social TV, for example while watching a football match or a TV series, I’d receive lots of positive answers.

Watching television while using internet isn’t so rare. As a study published by Publisuisse shows, this parallel use is the norm for 37% of the people interviewed between 15 and 59 years old. 15% of them exchange comments with other members of the audience about the current TV program they’re enjoying. Concerning the frequency, according to a report written by the firm zehnvier, 20% of the people interviewed watch TV in a social way at least once a week. This most occurs through Facebook (71%), while Social-TV-Apps seem to be not very used.

However, as we can read in the study of Publisuisse, the majority of the experts interviewed (78%) forecasts that watching TV passively will still play a big role in 2017.

  •  Some initiatives made in Switzerland

In Switzerland, as well as around the world, companies are beginning to embrace Social TV.

One of the Swiss pioneers is the private channel Joiz. During the 24 hours a day broadcasting, the audience can easily vote, comment, ask questions, etc., through its website, social media and mobile phones apps. Some comments are broadcasted or read live by the moderators.

Facebook messages and tweets are broadcasted and read live
during the programs “JoiZone love” and “Living room”
Source: http://www.joiz.ch

Another example of Swiss initiative is the function “TV Lounge” lanced by the portal Teleboy. Integrated in the traditional TV-Player, “TV Lounge” allows you to see what your friends are watching and to comment, chat or share your opinions on Facebook and Twitter.

Concerning the Swiss public service, SSR SRG is considering Social TV as part of its future strategy. In fact, as said in a press release, it wants to provide the audience new television types by combining traditional television with Internet. For the moment, the “second screen” is being tested by the broadcasting organizations RTS and SRF, while RSI has still to have patience.

As we can see, Social TV seems to become part of our life. Do you think that we will reach the point of seeing the journalists Darius Rochebin, Franz Fischlin or Roberto Cattaneo reading our comments and tweets during the news broadcast?

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Social media for Africa development: reality or utopia?

Social media for Africa development: reality or utopia?

Social media for Africa development: reality or utopia?

Let’us ask the question differently: what can social networks bring to Africa? The news of social networks in recent years, allows us to address this topic. Maybe I’m more interested in the issue because I’m coming from Benin in West Africa. I’m studying Master of Journalism and in at the end, social networks have the advantage of changing all the world.http://www.afrik.com/reseaux-sociaux-en-afrique-go-mobile

This bird has no boundaries

…and Africa tomorrow

We remember : february 2011, an African dictatorships fell. That of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. This is the sequence of events that are initiated from Tunisia. Behind these revolutions, unpredictable and unexpected tool: social networks. If the underdevelopment of Africa has long been maintained by dictatorial powers, their downfall should allow the development of Africa with massive participation of people in the conduct of their destiny. Facebook Twitter You Tube and Hi5 are widely used. They induce mutations in many areas.http://www.afriqueexpansion.com/les-reseaux-sociaux.html

In the Maghreb, Facebook and Twitter have been a good levers of the  « le printemps arabe. The flow of information brings a profound change in public life and therefore in development. Now, people are actively involved in public debate, give their views and influence policy decisions. A few years ago, it was only a dream. The social network, twitter down the barrier between governments and peoples in Africa: who wants to govern today, will benefit communicate. Be present and active on social networks. The national press agencies, and government presses are not the only ones privileged. Across the continent, the heads of state are followed in their activities. Their press services included that they should not remain outside the boom of social networks. Here, the top 15 in the number of messages sent by the African leaders on Twitter in June 2012.

Finally, the government is closer to people

With an estimated population of just over a billion people, Africa now has 500 million mobile subscribers. Initially, it was just a luxury for many Africans. The mobile phone was used to communicate with family and friends. For their part, cyber-café, not developed enough to offer a big internet access. Now social networks including Facebook and twitter are available on mobile. In 2011, Africa had already 140 million users.http://www.jeuneafrique.com/Article/ARTJAWEB20120628173136/

According to the results of a recent study by the British communications company Portland, here is the map of African twitter users. It covers 11.5 million tweets with messages of 140 characters. Nearly 50% come from South Africa. It is interesting to know that even in countries with poor access to social networks grows rapidly.

Twitter network in Africa

– Facebook has more than 17 million subscribers in Africa, against 10 million in 2009. The number of subscriptions is growng increased. Unlike the situation in other continents. This is what facebook has launched this year, several versions in some major African languages ​​including Swahili, Hausa and Zulu, Facebook announced that it would provide access to mobile users in many countries in Africa.http://www.jeuneafrique.com/Article/ARTJAWEB20120126150955/

– Google announced that it will launch a new service called Baraza. It allow users to interact by asking African and answering questions of local or regional interest.

– The local social networks themselves also develop. These are: Arigator South Africa, Ushahidi in Kenya, Linkedin and Viadeo to Magrheb in sub-sahérienne like Senegal, Benin…

What I think: The advent of democracy in the 90s had raised great hopes. Today, the development dream is not achieved even though there has been progress. Similarly, the growth experienced by social networks for two years must be accompanied in order to contribute effectively to the development of the continent. Countries should develop infrastructure to facilitate access to the internet. Fight against illiteracy. In Africa, social networks are also an effective tool of propaganda used by the government. Care should be taken to the plurality of opinions on social platforms.

If social networks continue to grow effectively, all vital sectors in africa will gain importance.

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Can anybody be a journalist?

Who can be called a journalist? The answer isn’t so easy, but so important in a world where everything goes so fast and information has a great impact on human activities.

Today, almost anybody in the world has a smartphone and an access to the web. Anybody can post a picture, a text or a video and give a sort of information to the world. How? With the new media: Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia or YouTube. Information is so easy and so quickly widespread trough the planet. “Great evolution”, will say the ones. “Disinformation” will respond the others.

Will the professional journalists disappear?
Picture: macalester.edu

The raise of citizen journalism: the new world’s voice

People don’t want to stay silent. For many centuries, journalists have been people’s voices. They found, collected and verified the information and always searched for the truth. But with the Internet’s democratization, people don’t want to wait that the journalists let them speak. They prefer to raise their voice directly and explain or show something to the whole world.

With the advent of Internet 2.0, new media technologies, for example social networking and media-sharing websites, gave citizens the opportunity to give information. Those citizen journalists often report breaking news faster than “normal” journalists. We can cite the events of Arab Spring, which were a lot report by anonymous citizens in the heart of the revolution. Another example of this quick report and exchange of information is the “Occupy Wall Street” movement which debuted on September 17th 2011.

Syrian activists send information with their computer.
Picture: bbc.co.uk

A really actual example is Syrian crisis. The country is closed and inhospitable for the journalists. But Syrian people who live the war post videos and testimonies on YouTube, social media or blogs. They claim their story and give a reality that many journalists just can’t report. It benefits to the citizens in the world, to realize what’s happening there!

Chris Shaw, the editorial director of ITN, a Britannic production society, said to The Guardian that social networks were opening up “whole new vistas for documentary filmmakers. You can make the most amazing films using content from social networks, sometimes with the permission and sometimes without the permission of the people who shot them.”

This reality takes all its sense with the Syrian crisis. “There are places like Syria where journalists haven’t been able to go and […] there is an extraordinary resource on social networks for current affairs, even though we have to take extraordinary caution to verify what we use”, said Chris Shaw.

Let’s see a short funny video, but with interesting points of reflection. “No no, I’m the journalist!”:

Let people participate

What we can observe today, is that many classical media websites give people the possibility to react and deepen the information. You can let comments in the website’s blog for example. Professional journalists are not alone anymore, because readers give a feedback and let them know what they think about the article and more globally about the topic.

Other media are based on the concept that citizens can contribute to the news by giving information or sharing links, but with the control and the work of professional journalists behind. This is the case of Digital Journal or Rue89 in France for example. But is it citizen journalism? I don’t think so. We can call this hybrid journalism, because citizens and professional journalists work together.

But some websites or blogs are entirely “citizen made”. You, I, anybody can add an article and participate to information’s transmission. But these platforms ask the contributors to share valuable and verified information, and grant themselves the right to remove an inappropriate content. For example, we can mention the Quebec’s website centpapiers or the better known Wikinews.

American information’s channel CNN launched in 2008 its new participative site: CNN iReport. This website is only based on citizens content. They can post a story, picture, commentary or video and create the news. What is interesting with this concept is that CNN’s journalists sometimes select a subject and diffuse it on the classic channels. With this system, citizens can really be a part of the media agenda setting.

Citizens, yes! Citizen journalists, no!

So where is the difference between a citizen and a professional journalist? Well, let’s go back to the very base of journalism: giving information. Information isn’t just a concept; it’s the reality, the truth, what’s really happening. Yes, journalism is “making information” and transmitting this information to the people; a full-time job!

Here are some answer people gave to the question “Who should be called a journalist?” on ijnet (international journalist’s network):

If we set aside the fact that professional journalists work for a media and are paid for this, we must consider that journalists respond to some exigencies and rules. They have to verify the sources, analyze them, explain the events, replace them in their context and be as objective as possible. And the journalists must respect deontological rules. Do the citizen journalists respect those exigencies? Because they must, instead we just can’t call them journalists.

Another point is that a professional journalist isn’t in the commentary when he writes an article. When a citizen journalist writes, we often observe committed comments. Professional journalist informs, when online citizen testifies to what he sees, ears or notices.

But today, citizens contribution is a wealth for journalists. An inexhaustible source of ideas and materials than can be used. And it forces journalists to do their job: treat information and not only transmit it as it is. Citizens make their citizen’s job, when they transmit something important and newsworthy to the journalists.

You’re a citizen, a journalist, or maybe a citizen journalist: what do you think? Leave you comments!

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When radio meets social media

Source: Ludovic Péron

Reading this article will give you a glimpse to how a Swiss media company succeeded in combining radio and social media. The company created an innovative program where social networks became the source of information.

When the Web 2.0 era first started pointing its nose in our lives, we mostly heard of the incompatibility between traditional media and social media. Today, I am more than ever convinced that both of them can go through life hand in hand. Why so?

By now, if you’re not living like a hermit – but then again if you are reading me right now, you are definitely not ! – you’ll have probably already witnessed the booming use of Facebook comments and tweets on your favorite television programs, no? Well, this practice is already widespread in the USA and  is starting to grow in France.

After the celebration of the wedding between television and Twitter, Radio Télévision Suisse (also called RTS) has been willing to provide us with a unique swiss union between the radio and social media. An innovative radio program came to light on February 2012: “En Ligne Directe“. The program is broadcasted on the channel “La Première” and is based on public participation via social media.

However, the radio being a non visual medium, how could such a combination of medias be possible? On the most simplest way. Yes, really! But one should have thought of that. Inspired by the program “Your Call” from the BBC Scotland radio, the idea of ​​RTS is to integrate social media with a radio program thanks to a multimedia team and a facilitator who manages everything together. 

Concretely, “En Ligne Directe” is a radio program that will deal, on a day to day basis, with hot issues (either local, national or international) in the form of a debate during which the audience participates. “But the debate is not a new concept “, you say? In fact, what is new in this program is that listeners and Internet users can take part in the debate, not only by telephone but also via social media.

Every evening, one of the program presenters publishes a question to the audience on Twitter, Facebook and on En Ligne Directe‘s mobile application. This question will be the topic discussed on air the next morning.

Internet users can then share their opinions and/or discuss the topic of the day on these social networks. The host of “En Ligne Directe”, Magali Philip, will also take an active part in discussing the topics on the social networks, and this until 10.30pm. She collects the opinions of Internet users posted on social networks.

In parallel, the public also has the possibility to record a voice message via the “En Ligne Directe” mobile application which allows them to send their opinion to the Radio program.

The show is broadcasted every day from 8am to 8.30 am. During those 30 minutes on air, the facilitator summarizes the discussions that took place during the previous evenings on social networks. She also cites comments made by users, and broadcasts few collection of voice messages sent from the mobile application. The program gives the opportunity to listeners that call the studio to have their voice and opinion heard on air. If you click on the following link, you will find a video report realized by RTS about “En Ligne Directe” explaining how the program works. (Video only available in French. Sorry for those who do not understand french).

The combination of all these ingredients is a successful recipe: it gathers 210,000 daily listeners. If you have always dreamt to speak up and give your opinion publicly as well as a fervent news follower, then this program is made for you ! It gives the public the opportunity to take part in the public debate and to contribute to the realization of information (i.e. the idea of ​​citizen journalism).

Source: unknown

That’s a good concept for the public, but not only! This program also has benefits for the RTS company. It allows the company to evolve along with social media while taking advantage from them. Indeed, for “En Ligne Directe” social media are not only a source of audience for the program’s web platforms, but also for all the media channels of the company (TV channels, radio channels, Website, etc.). More precisely, the debates taking place on “En Ligne Directe” program are the opportunity to invite Internet users and listeners to learn more about topics treated and in this way it encourages the public to use the information provided by RTS in its various channels.

Source: RTS

So this is the way how RTS operates to take advantage of social media – marrying social media with classical media in order to catch the audience attention and staying along with Web 2.0 developments.

Being myself keen on following the latest and “hottest” news, I was excited about the whole concept of the show. However, as all of us out there, I am a terribly busy person and I do not have the time to participate in the debates on social medias. Therefor, no time to listen to the radio at 8am. Although, this is not a problem! The RTS has a solution for every situation! If you can also describe yourself as an extremely busy person, get yourself on Storify as soon as you have a few minutes off your crazy life, and read the discussions’ summary where you will find the best comments and tweets.

So now we know the theory about this innovative media concept, you are probably asking yourself: « In practice, is that complicated? ». The answer is « Not at all » ! The only requirements are: having a phone or Smartphone… but who doesn’t own one nowadays? And being motivated in giving your opinion on a topic, of course!

So, you, dear reader, will you dare in taking part to a debate with all those exciting possibilities to express yourself ?

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Crowdsourcing: how is this concept applied to journalism?

With the rise of the Web 2.0, more and more people get to express themselves on the Internet: by contributing to a personal blog, answering to a poll on a website or making comments on any event the web is talking about. Today, those contributions can be neatly managed by news organisations to make you participate to their news production. And this is the object of this blog’s entry: crowdsourcing the news.

Jeff Howe

The crowd likes to be involved

Jeff Howe is the man who coined the term “crowdsourcing” in 2006 in an article called “The Rise of crowdsourcing.” At the time he was a contributing editor of the Wired magazine. Now he tends to be perceived as The Crowdsourcing expert. But you may wonder…

What is crowdsourcing?

As Jeff Howe well expressed it, crowdsourcing is a process of involving the public, the crowd, into a task by an open call. And this process if often made through a website. The definition could include many sorts of calls, indeed. To a large extent, crowdsourcing can be applied to solving a scientific problem, as the company InnoCentive started to do in 2001, or as IStockphotos managed in outsourcing the task of photographing an event to a voluntary crowd instead of hiring a professional photographer for instance.

Crowdsourcing takes many forms. But one thing makes it unique: it empowers the crowd. As the crowd represents different brains, different competences, it can be even more creative, efficient, innovative and influent than a single man working in his office on a task he has no grasp into.

How news organisations make the most of it?

In the context of Journalism, you can well imagine that the journalist and the news organisation one can work for were primarily the only gatekeepers of news, and you were waiting for them to be informed. If there was a place for you to communicate with the newspaper, there was the “letters to the editor”, and not many more.

Today news organisations have their websites. Moreover, if you give a closer look to them, you will notice they even make a space for you to act and communicate. Not by solely adding comments. There is more!

In England, the BBC has launched Have your Say ; in the USA, CNN opened iReport. And the Swiss news organisations are not the last: The RTS has Vos infos and The 20minutes has the Lecteur-Reporter’s platform. All fell in the new trend. They all let you the chance to be part of their work, or in other words: now the news need you.

As a million of events happen across the world, reporters and journalists cannot cover them all. This is where the audience is powerful: it can improve their coverage.

When terrorists set off a series of bombs on buses and subways in London, who produced the most riveting images and sound bites? The passengers and their cell phones.” [1] When an accident occur next to your home, or on your way to work, you are the first witness of the event and no professional reporter could catch the same tension you were able to grasp when it happens.

With a single photo, a video, a short message, you can make a newsroom get up. You can even make it change its editorial agenda.

 

 

For Bernard Rappaz, Editor in chief at the RTS in Switzerland, crowdsourcing makes a news media quicker than before. Using Twitter, Facebook, and their crowdsourcing tool on their website, the members of the newsroom can compete with the news agencies they are sometimes dependent on. As Mathieu Coutaz confirms himself: it allows the staff to be the first on the scene and to be always closer to the stories that interest the people their work for.

Mathieu Coutaz

Mathieu Coutaz is the content manager for 20minutes online in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The 20minutes is The daily newspaper distributed in Switzerland and this, for free. Its platform “lecteur-reporteur” has been launched in 2006 and the newspaper rewards any contributions that it eventually publishes on its web. What is most, “50% to 70% of the contributions that are selected go on the print edition” Mathieu Coutaz explains. And he emphasises one fundamental point that cannot be neglected: your photos and stories go through a process of verification before getting anything done. “When verified, the contributions of the audience can influence the editorial agenda on the temporal and hierarchical aspects. If it has to be treated before another news, and if the story is worth being published at the top of our agenda, then of course we do it.”

For the one that may want to ask: But isn’t it citizen journalism? In fact, no it isn’t. Robert Niles states this argument in his “Journalist’s guide to crowdsourcing”:

Crowdsourcing does not ask readers to become anything more than what they’ve always been: eyewitness to their daily lives.

In that sense the news organisations save their first role of gatekeepers: the readers don’t write the stories, they only contribute to it: the final decision of its treatement and broadcast still lies in the professional’s hands.

Crowdsourcing at risks

In an interesting article, Darren Gilbert warns that “crowdsourcing can be as advantageous as it can be dangerous.” Although readers are willing to contribute to the news, some are able to get a journalist on the wrong track. He takes the example of a recent scandal that occurred in the United States: a company named Journatic published news gathered from the public. And there were actually wrong!

In Switzerland, all the news platforms I discovered ask for the name and mail address of the contributors, in order to be able to get back to him/her. A mail address can be fake, indeed, but in any case, Swiss news organsations do the verification before publishing, which can avoid some serious faux pas.

To cope it all, crowdsourcing may well bring the public and the news organisation closer than before. It may establish a new relationship between the public and the news media: a trust that could have been lost. But it still needs to be well used in order not to lose what crowdsourcing is for journalism: a relevant tool to make the crowd part of the work, for a better and substantial result.

I am now turning to you

 Have you ever contributed to the news of your local newspaper?

What do you think of the crowdsourcing concept regarding journalism?

 

And to go further…

A new trend in crowdsourcing is for journalists to use special crowdsourcing platforms to gather the information they couldn’t find from their places, such as Ushahidi‘s platform, specialised in mapping crowdsourcing information.

The TED talks also got into the crowdsourcing concept, here is a talk held by Paul Lewis about the impact of crowdsourcing the news for investigative journalism.

And to be always up to date with the last seminars about crowdsourcing and journalism, have a look at the European Journalism Center’s website, it’s worth it!

By Céline Bilardo

[1] Howe, J. 2008.  Crowdsourcing: Why the power of the crowd is driving the future of business. 1st ed. USA: Ed.Crown Business. p.212.

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