Citizen Journalism and the Changing News Landscape
I'm a big Toronto Raptors basketball fan, and used to be a big Vince Carter fan. For those who have better things to do than follow pampered millionaires put a ball through a hoop, Carter established basketball in Canada, and was loved by many... until the bottom fell out of the franchise a couple of years ago. Coaching and upper management changes plagued the franchise, and the on-court product suffered. Carter, who used to be the guy who you paid to see because the odds were high that on any given night, you'd see him do something you'd probably never see done again, became the poster child for the overpaid, under-performing athlete.
But he still put butts in the seats for over six years in Toronto, until the Raptors traded him to the New Jersey Nets earlier this season.
Now, my Raptors mania ran so deep that I owned Raptors season tickets while I lived in Boston, and ran a Raptors blog for a year. And so I found myself on a Toronto-bound plane last Friday, anticipating an evening of closure and boiling blood that would come from attending Carter's first game in Toronto as a member of the Nets.
The game itself was a good one, and Carter stepped up in a game (he generally does in the important ones) that had both personal and playoff implications. The fans were merciless--boos rained down on Carter whenever he touched the ball, and chants of "Car-ter... Car-ter" and "VC Sucks! VC Sucks!" rang out throughout the night. The reception Carter got was much worse than those given to Damon Stoudamire and Tracy McGrady, two other ex-Raptors that left on bad terms.
The game was great fun, but what struck me most was that I wanted to share this experience with my displaced Raptor fan friends. I started out by taking photos of the creative ways fans expressed their anti-Vince Carter sentiment, but that didn't provide a real sense of the intensity in the building. So I started taking short videos of the action with my digital camera. I've been advised not to post the videos, but I've posted three MP3s of the fans at the arena: "Car-ter... Car-ter", "VC sucks! VC sucks!" and Carter being booed, then cheered when he misses a jumper.
Mind you, the video is a lot more powerful, and very few people care about a Toronto-New Jersey basketball game, but you get the idea.
Now, the question is what happens when there are 10 fans who don't care about rights, and post cameraphone pictures and video during a Yankees-Red Sox playoff game, and augment that with higher quality video, pictures, and commentary after the game?
What happens when 100 fans do it? Or 1000? How do rights holders react? More importantly, how do the major news media sites react? What happens when the next major world event occurs (we saw a lot of Tsunami-related citizen journalism in December)? It's impossible for a major news media site to scale to provide the breadth of coverage that the blogosphere can. And rights holders can't be excited about the decisions they will have to make when their content can be repurposed, remixed, and rebroadcast without their express written consent (or, preferably, money changing hands).
There's a big opportunity for MNM sites to augment their own coverage by tapping into the public's desire to share information and experiences. Pointing to this content can already be done manually, and once services launch that measure a blogger's authority on a given subject, it will be a lot easier for MNM sites to automate the process of pointing to authoritative and relevant text, video, and audio content. Heck, sites like The Annotated New York Times and Whitelabel.org's BBC Democratization project are already doing it automatically, but the relevance of the linked content isn't where it needs to be. These sites also do nothing with amateur video or audio content.
Big sites will be able to capitalize on guiding conversations and helping disseminate useful opinons, experiences, and analysis that the public wants to share. Their are some pieces of the pie that need to fall into place first--a better authority engine, and cheap places to host broadband content, for example. When they do, though, it will be interesting to see which MNM sites are prepared to improve their products by pointing their visitors to relevant user-generated content.