Intelligence
Gannett First Newspaper Chain to Adopt Crowdsourcing for News

Intelligence

Gannett First Newspaper Chain to Adopt Crowdsourcing for News

Nov 07, 2006By Michael Stoner

How does this work? The model involves inviting input and leveraging expertise from the community beyond the newsroom. Here’s an example:

The most prominent example … occurred this summer with The News-Press in Fort Myers, Florida. In May, readers from the nearby community of Cape Coral began calling the paper, complaining about the high prices—as much as $28,000 in some cases—being charged to connect newly constructed homes to water and sewer lines.

Maness asked the News-Press to employ a new method of looking into the complaints. “Rather than start a long investigation and come out months later in the paper with our findings we asked our readers to help us find out why the cost was so exorbitant,” said Kate Marymont, the News-Press’ editor in chief.

… Readers spontaneously organized their own investigations: Retired engineers analyzed blueprints, accountants pored over balance sheets, and an inside whistle-blower leaked documents showing evidence of bid-rigging.

People who spend a lot of time on the web know how this works. Political blogs, in particular, offer models of how many passionate investigators can uncover information about a breaking story and add pieces to an ongoing investigation. But this represents a major initiative by a significant player in the mainstream media to leverage the power of the net—and of a larger human community.

I should point out that crowdsourcing isn’t exactly new—companies like Zagat have been doing it for years. What is new is that the web provides such a powerful platform for collaboration at a scale never before possible.


  • Michael Stoner Co-Founder and Co-Owner Was I born a skeptic or did I become one as I watched the hypestorm gather during the dotcom years, recede, and congeal once more as we come to terms with our online, social, mobile world? Whatever. I'm not much interested in cutting edge but what actually works for real people in the real world. Does that make me a bad person?