Crowdsourcing is an important way to personalize and engage your audience. The use of crowdsourcing can result in the creation of unique user-generated content or collaborative and social journalism. To provide a deeper understanding of crowdsourcing practices, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University conducted detailed interviews, survey-work and case studies to produce its Guide to Crowdsourcing.
The two most recognized practices of crowdsourcing are news organizations asking for audience input and social media users offering non-solicited feedback. The Tow Center identified crowdsourcing in journalism as the act of inviting a group of people to participate in a reporting assignment. In other words, it’s an open call for your audience to personally contribute.
Thinking of the Center’s definition, crowdsourcing usually comes in two forms, as an unstructured open-invitation to provide feedback by way of a vote, email or call or as a targeted request to a particular segment of people. Crowdsourcing is especially popular among digital startups who are developing a unique style of journalism with a new audience.
Many news organizations include crowdsourcing in the entire process from story assigning, to pre-data collection, research and analytics to reporting and post-story discussions. Some important practices to incorporate when crowdsourcing:
- Clearly define your journalistic goals.
- Communicate what will be done with participant’s contribution.
- Be specific about the type of response you want.
- Announce your call-out more than once.
- Use the proper terms like “share” versus “submit.”
- Leave a short time gap between call-out and publication.
- Communicate with community often.
- Respond to and reward your contributors.
- Make it easy for people to participate.
Effective crowdsourcing provides robust content and a valuable path for connecting and giving back to your audience.