Thursday, January 28, 2010

Can You Crowdsource Journalism? Seed is Trying

In what he hopes will be the first big demonstration of the “crowdsourcing” potential of AOL’s new service, former New York Times writer Saul Hansell says he is looking for writers who will write up interviews with all of 2,000 or so bands and artists at the SXSW music festival in Austin. The assignment will involve “real reporting,” Hansell said in an interview, in which writers will have to pick up the phone and call the band or artist and write up a 1,000-word interview in question-and-answer format, as well as a 300- to 500-word biography. The price for this assignment? The princely sum of $50.

Both Seed and similar web-based contract-writing services from Demand Media and Associated Content have come under fire from a number of critics who say they are primarily designed to generate low-quality, cheap content that contains just enough keywords to attract search-engine traffic, and therefore advertising. Hansell, however, who joined AOL in December as head of programming at Seed, says that what he is trying to do is to figure out how to “deploy human intelligence at scale,” and that it is much more than just an effort to generate “the lowest-common denominator of SEO-friendly pages.”
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