Media Crowdsourcing

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Katarina Stanoevska-Slabeva:

"At present, a common practice at media companies is to involve so called reader reporters or even global crowdsourcing platforms as for example the platform ‘Have your Say’ of BBC and the similar platform of Al Jazeera (see for more details Newman 2009). These crowdsourcing practices show similar advantages and disadvantages as already described crowdsourcing platforms of companies in other industries: Media companies can chose from a growing supply of user generated content and contributions. However, they also have to cope with similar problems as other industries, such as critical mass of contributors, qualified contributors, quality control of contributions as well as selection, classification and evaluation of an increasing quantity of content provided. Another approach for aggregation of various user contributions is automatic aggregation as it is provided by Google news. However, automatically aggregated user generated content does not meet the requirements of high quality.

At present, the new challenge for media companies is how to include valuable contributions of users from social media. Social media have become important agenda setters and sources of alternative information and news (see Ebermann et. al. 2009, Jarvis 2008, Newman 2009). During certain events, as for example the Iran election in 2009, social media might even be the only source of information (Ebermann et. al. 2009). As the recent Arabic revolution showed, social media have become the arena for citizen activism of any kind and by that also a prime source of information. In particular, eyewitness information is spread mainly over Social Media. Jeff Jarvis used the term eyewitness journalism to denote this phenomenon and noted in the Guardian (Jarvis 2008): “The witnesses are taking over the news.”

Being the main channel for eyewitness news, Social Media are fundamentally changing the way how news are broken (Newman 2009). They are "… contributing to the compression of the ‘news cycle’" (Newman 2009) and are putting more pressure on editors and journalists over what to report and when. The need for selecting of relevant information and publishing in almost real time has increased tremendously. Because of their growing importance in the news and information creating cycle, many commercial and public media outlets have started to use Social Media as complementary sources of information and distribution channels (see the examples in (Ebermann et. al. 2009); (Newman 2009)). Furthermore, new approaches are being tested on how to include Social Media into routine workflow of journalists (see case study in Ebermann et. al. 2009).

In context of these developments, a new crowdsourcing or rather crowd harnessing approach that can be observed in the media practice and also by independent users is the Social Media Content Curation approach. With the term social media content curation the authors denote the new approach for creation of content based on social media that goes beyond simple and automatic aggregation. According to (Rosenbaum 2011), “… curation is about adding value from humans who add their qualitative judgment to whatever is being gathered and organized.” Rosenbaum (2011) furthermore adds: “Curation is about selection, organization, presentation and evolution. While computers can aggregate content, information or any shape or size of data, aggregation without curation is just a big pile of stuff that seems related but lacks qualitative organization.” According to (Rotman et. al. 2011) curation deals with large corpora of content from diverse sources and connotes the activities of identifying, selecting, verifying, organizing, describing, maintaining, and preserving existing artifacts as well as integrating them into a holistic resource. Curation thus, is a symbiosis of human and machine efforts. The experts performing curation tasks are called curators, and in context of media content curators. Rosenbaum (2011) cites in his book Rohit Bhargava's curation manifesto, to describe a content curator as “… someone whose job it is not to create more content, but to make sense of all the content that others are creating”. Social-media content curation means creating of new media genres and content based on input from social media. Curated social media content is an innovative content genre that consists of original contributions from both online sites of media outlets and social media such as tweets from microblogs, posts from social networks and videos from video sharing platforms. The selected original contributions are glued together to a story with background and context information provided by the curator (author). Social-media curated content is emerging in different formats such as books (for example the Quakebook was created based on contributions from social-media related to the earthquake in Japan), print articles, video and audio formats. Compared to the crowdsourcing platforms that require input from human contributors, curated content is assembled half-automatically from existing contributions of users in social media. Another characteristic of social media content curation is the real-time collection, selection and classification of contributions made by users." (


"First examples illustrate that the concept of curation or crowd harnessing is applicable also to other application areas. (Rotman et. al 2011) describe the phenomena of content curration communities based on the case of the Encyclopedia of Life. The Encyclopedia of Life ( is a cooperation project among scientists and citizen scientists and has the ambitious goal to create an encyclopedia of every known species on earth. Involved users curate existing material about species available from other sources, classify it, embed it into background and context information. The curation is performed either manually or through extracting content automatically through APIs. One of the sources of information for the encyclopedia is also Wikipedia.

Compared to existing crowdsourcing processes, content curation introduces a new crowdsourcing or rather crowd harnessing approach. Instead of acquiring a crowd and posting a problem, already existing contributions of users in social media related to e certain topic, as for example a product, are curated. This means they are collected, evaluated, classified and aggregated. Thereby, the potential outcome is open and depends on the bottom-up contributions of user, communities or other content providers.

The question is if semi-automatic collection of content, knowledge, ideas and concepts that users worldwide publish in social media such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and others might be the next development step in crowdsourcing practices. Instead of pre-defining the topic for crowdsourcing, potential topics in a certain field or industry might be observed and curated by collecting and clustering the discussion taking place in social media communities. In this way the limitation, that only ideas and problems based by the internal company cognition might be overcome. Bottom up collection, classification, integration and rating of independent contributions by users might result in ideas nobody has thought of before." (