Nieman Foundation at Harvard
America’s Test Kitchen, “the Consumer Reports of cooking,” wants to grow to new platforms
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Aug. 2, 2011, 10 a.m.

iReport at 5: Nearly 900,000 contributors worldwide

In its five years, iReport has evolved from a social network into a reporting platform.

In the summer of 2006, CNN announced that it would dedicate a section of its website to user-generated video, audio, and articles in a new feature called CNN Exchange. The core framework was content-sharing — a “YouTube for news,” essentially — with CNN branding.

What began as something of an experiment is now a prominent feature of CNN, both online and on the air. CNN Exchange has morphed into iReport, and, today, the feature is celebrating five years of officially-recognized citizen journalism at CNN. And it suggests what might happen when user contributions to news organizations are approached in terms of scale: So far, iReport has attracted nearly 900,000 contributors worldwide; it garners an average of 15,000 contributions from them each month; its content nets 2.6 million views a month; and it’s been used to cover news events both breaking and non- — from the perspective, importantly, of the people experiencing those events first-hand.

“Our bet is: We don’t know everything; we don’t have all the answers, but we can probably collect more of them — and do more diverse, interesting, deep stories — if we ask for help and collaborate,” Lila King, CNN Digital’s participation director and the head of iReport, told me. “That’s certainly the leap we took when we launched iReport.”

iReport is celebrating today’s milestone with birthday features on CNN’s website, as well as in-person parties (organized by contributors via in cities around the world. But as it does so, it’s also thinking about the next steps in its evolution. “If we get this right, the future of iReport is in more and deeper collaboration, among one another and also between CNN and the people it serves,” King notes in a blog post.

And that collaboration could have an even bigger impact on the coverage offered by CNN overall. In its five years, iReport has evolved from a classic content-sharing network — its first user contribution was a video of a squirrel — into a full-on reporting platform. An iReport from the scene of 2007’s Virginia Tech shooting provided audio of the events as they transpired. iReports from Iran were an important component of CNN’s overall coverage of the 2009 protests in the country. In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, residents used iReport to post photos of missing friends and relatives and to ask for help in finding them. iReporters and CNN staffers have worked together, via iReport’s Open Stories project, to cover everything from the royal wedding to the Joplin tornado to the death of Osama bin Laden.

In its five years, in other words, iReport has evolved from a social network into a reporting platform. The next step, perhaps for the next five, will be figuring out how to be both of those things at the same time.

POSTED     Aug. 2, 2011, 10 a.m.
Show comments  
Show tags
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
America’s Test Kitchen, “the Consumer Reports of cooking,” wants to grow to new platforms
“We’d like to move to other platforms, particularly as we see the changes in how people consume television.”
A program from Poynter and ONA is helping foster a community of female leaders in digital media
The Women’s Leadership Academy provides camaraderie and concrete advice beyond a bundle of platitudes.
Come talk ad blockers with Nieman Lab and a set of experts in New York
We’re having our first event in New York City with industry leaders: Wednesday, December 2 at 6 p.m.
What to read next
How one blog helped spark The New York Times’ digital evolution
“I certainly had editors tell me that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on Bird Week. But that was the best part of City Room…We were like unsupervised children.”
572News outlets left and right (and up, down, and center) are embracing virtual reality technology
Among those experimenting is The Wall Street Journal, which plans to open source its 360-degree mobile video and VR technology and hopes to turn VR into more of a mainstay of its storytelling.
502Podcasting in 2015 feels a lot like blogging circa 2004: exciting, evolving, and trouble for incumbents
The same trends we saw a decade ago — professionalization on one hand, platformization on the other — sure seem to be playing out again.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
CBS News
Gawker Media
The Daily Telegraph
The Seattle Times
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Daily
New York
Connecticut Mirror
Media Consortium
Center for Public Integrity