Finding wisdom in the crowd key to future of media

5 May 2011

Veteran broadcaster Mark Little, whose Storyful curated news service might be on the brink of a major deal with Google and YouTube, told it@cork he is working to productise Storyful for the wider media and that making sense of the noise of social media is integral to the future of news.

Little, who was RTÉ’s first Washington correspondent, pointed out there are 110m tweets being sent daily and 35 hours of video appearing on YouTube by the minute.

“Ninety-nine per cent of this is useless to the community we are in and that is the challenge Storyful is addressing.”

He said the opportunity for Storyful is making sense of all of that noise with the view of making that information useful.

For example, during the course of the weekend’s events following the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Storyful did detective work using various mapping technologies to identify the correct location of bin Laden’s compound for news organisation.

“When we think about new technology, are we adding to the noise or making it useful to human beings?

Referring to how people respond to the multitude of tweets, Facebook status updates and YouTube, Little said: “Ninety-nine per cent do nothing, 9pc participate and 1pc create most of the invaluable content.

“People talk about the wisdom of crowds but these are not necessarily wise crowds. Social networks consists of groups of communities with their own leaders. It’s our task as a curated news service to find the wisdom in the crowds. I believe that is a challenge for anyone who wants to grow a business today, finding the wisdom in the crowd.”

Little told it@cork how Storyful entered into a trial with Google and YouTube, who had discovered that when it came to news, algorithms only do so much.

“Google hit a wall and an Irish company came up with a solution.”

Human curation

He said: “In the past, journalists were responsible for finding and managing nuggets of information, but now they’re managing an abundance of information and are challenged with finding something useful. This is also true for businesses, generally. Every event creates a community and its our task to identify people in a crowd that can be trusted to yield the right information. Beyond the cloud, we’ve reached the third wave of the internet where we’ve gone from crowds to communities of people and there is a need to discover the useful information in all that abundance.”

Little said Storyful is competing with two other companies that are based in California and is awaiting YouTube’s final decision.

He said the next step for Storyful is to productise its ability to make sense out of the abundance of information.

Responding to a question in terms of reaching scale and creating products, Little related how his service had been trialled by more than 500 journalists at CNN who loved it, but when it came to the crunch CNN gave him a new challenge: “Come back in six months and work out a tool that helps my people do what you do, that allows creators of news sites to do it themselves.

“That’s how you scale”, Little said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years