There was a time, not so long ago, when only certain people got to be photographers. Only a small handful were movie critics. But in an era of “crowdsourcing” and “citizen journalism,” suddenly those professions are open to everyone.
Except they aren’t really professions anymore.
Local newspapers no longer have a monopoly on an “aggregated audience of their community,” as Wired.com‘s Jeff Howe put it in his chat with Ramona Pringle. Anyone can now reach an audience, whether it’s with their writing, their photography, or any other content.
Howe says this results in a “flowering of alternatives that starts to erode the editorial model for a newspaper,” while simultaneously reducing the value of content, as audiences become fragmented and advertisers can no longer reach a wide swath of the population through one or two major outlets.
Howe initially coined the term crowdsourcing in a June 2006 article to describe a company’s act of outsourcing tasks that would normally be performed by an employee to a large, possibly undefined network of people. Suddenly, where a staff photographer would be used to cover a car crash, a sporting event, or a press conference – and paid a salary – a newspaper could scour the web and social media for content.
Often of a lesser quality, almost always at decreased cost. As a result, the professional photographer or the professional reporter become far less valuable. Social media allows for the crowdsourcing of quotes and photographs, but by democratizing the practice of journalism, it has severely damaged its financial viability.
Because they’ve lost their monopoly on local advertising space to the thousands of new voices and outlets on the Internet, the newspaper model has been irreparably broken.
“That’s a huge problem, and what will replace that?” asks Howe. “No one knows, including me.”