Last week, CNN sacked over 50 staffers, many of them camera-lugging photojournalists, in part because it will lean more heavily on its citizen journalism outfit iReport for more, better content. With Monday's relaunch of iReport as a "social network for news," CNN's strategy of shifting various tasks from its paid journalists to the five-year-old network of iReporters is coming into focus. We doubt that CNN will soon replace news anchors with holograms any time soon, but the network is trending towards giving its citizen journalists more assignments, surfacing more of their content on TV and generally making iReport content more of an editorial fixture. And feature-by-feature, there's little doubt that CNN wants the new iReport to be a money-saver as well as a scoop factory.
Social Networking Basics
Like Current TV did years ago, CNN is inviting readers to set up profile pages packed with personal details. Like Twitter, you can follow other iReporters, CNN reporters and interest-based groups, and like Facebook, a newsfeed provides a stream of updates. Like Foursquare, the profiles can be tricked out with badges awarded for being an active iReporter. It's to keep people coming back, says CNN's participation director Lila King. "The new version is really meant to give you a heads up about which stories we know you could add your voice to," King told the Poynter Institute. The cynical way of reading King's quote would suggest that CNN producers are tapping these citizen journalists for content instead of paid reporters, but the iReport network has a long ways to go. Poynter says that iReport attracts 15,000 contributions a month, 7 percent of which staffers use, but that's still only about 35 contributions a day.