When We Create the News, Does Journalism Lose?

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Yahoo! introduced a game changer this week when it launched the Yahoo! Contributor Platform. The new network takes Associated Content’s platform and gives it the mega-power of Yahoo! Basically, it takes contributions from more than 400,000 writers, videographers and photographers and places them on some of the Internet’s most-visited sites. Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Sports and other sites in the media conglomerate will be publishing pieces from members of the Contributor Platform. The company even pays selected contributors using PayPal.

While this move makes Internet news more social, we do have to wonder if quality is going to suffer in favor of a gimmicky platform. The big problem one can see straight away with contributor-based news is the “article marketing problem.” Yes, article marketing is still effective and still being touted by industry pros – but it’s also a practice which is routinely met with skepticism for spamming the web with manufactured articles which simply exist to garner more links. Contributor-based news may fall under the same kind of scrutiny. That said, Yahoo!’s seems to have an airtight, spam-proof system. Yahoo! Contributor Platform assigns stories and gives writers deadlines. So the links would probably only work in favor for the writer.

Still, there is no accounting for taste. MSN, Yahoo! and AOL are notorious for running wacky clickable headlines which are usually backed up by a story seemingly written by a chimpanzee. So it’s safe to assume that contributor-based stories could make Internet news even sillier than it is now. But will it kill online journalism as we know it? Hardly. As it is, the majority of items we read online come from random sources – even the ones published by actual news outlets – therefore folks seem fairly unconcerned with where there news comes from. Secondly, Internet readers are more like scanners. They gaze over what looks interesting and move on. Lastly, user-created news stories could bring back the DIY spirit of the Internet’s early information days. It’s kind of like your small town newspaper but with millions of Yahoo! readers perusing your articles. And when we put it like that, contributor-based news doesn’t sound so silly. After all, enlisting an average Joe to write a story about his favorite local bar is no more ridiculous than having a political rally sponsored by a cable channel. (Did we just say that?)

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