Citizen journalism isn’t stepping up sufficiently to fill the “information shortfall” caused by cutbacks in the newsrooms of newspapers and other traditional news organizations, a University of Missouri School of Journalism study finds. “While many of the blogs and citizen journalism sites have done very interesting and positive things, they are not even close to providing the level of coverage that even financially stressed news organizations do today,” said Margaret Duffy, associate professor at the Mizzou j-school. “Not only do these blogs and websites lack the staff to adequately cover stories, but most citizen journalism managers do not have the financial resources and business experience to make their websites viable over time.” The Missouri study looked at the top 60 citizen journalism Websites and blogs, and identified several factors including how much linking each website included, how much public participation they allowed or invited, how frequently news and content were updated, and whether the citizen websites provided contact information for the public.
YouTube announced Monday that it is testing a new feature called the YouTube News Feed, which it is working on with the University of California at Berkley’s Graduate School of Journalism. The feature would track news as it breaks on YouTube. YouTube says the news feed will provide a stream of breaking news videos on YouTube, with a focus on strong visuals, non-traditional sources, and the latest uploads. The feed will reside on CitizenTube, YouTube’s news/politics video blog. Updates will also be posted to the CitizenTube Twitter account
The user-funded news site Spot.Us this week launched a ‘community-centered advertising’ feature that allows users to answer questions posed by a sponsor in exchange for credit to use on the site, reported Poynter’s Bill Mitchell. Spot.Us invites readers and journalists to propose stories and readers are asked to donate to those which they view as worthwhile, once a price has been set. It publishes an average of a story each week, according to founder David Cohn in February. Now, readers are also asked whether they would like to earn credits. The current ‘survey sponsor’ is Mortgage Revolution, a mortgage company which gave Spot.Us USD 5000 as a charitable donation, Cohn explained to Mitchell. Cohn decided to let readers decide which stories this could go towards, so is offering USD 5 credit to any reader who answers Mortgage Revolution’s short survey on the site. Cohn made it clear to Mitchell that this system is currently an experiment, and he is not sure whether it will prove popular with users and whether other advertisers will want to get on board.
The entrepreneur who created a virtual marketplace that connects sellers and buyers worldwide is launching an online news site where people will pay to exchange ideas and discuss issues affecting their communities. Pierre Omidyar, the founder and chairman of eBay Inc., is entering the news business with a new online service in Hawaii. By charging a USD 19.99-a-month membership, Omidyar hopes to accomplish what newspapers and other media organizations nationwide have long struggled with — having readers pay for content and making local news profitable. Civilbeat.com is expected to go live Wednesday with the official launch scheduled for May 4. It promises to provide in-depth reporting and analysis, and be a civic plaza for island residents. “Reporter-hosts” will post articles, interact with readers, provide frequent updates and host discussions. Omidyar decided more than two years ago to launch a news service to cover local civic affairs, including the state, city, education, land and money. The site will feature a “topic page” for each issue. On the page, readers can find links to stories, history and background information. The other unique aspect will be the discussion section. Unlike traditional newspaper online comment sections that are often marred by hateful, obscene, racist or mindless commentary posted by anonymous readers, Civil Beat members will be identified and no anonymous comments will be allowed
Faded Internet star AOL is reinventing itself as a digital age news operation with an army of freelance writers wielding online tools. Fresh from being spun off by Time Warner in December, AOL launched Seed.com to groom freelance writing talent to crank out stories for its array of websites on topics ranging from pets and sports to politics and technology. “AOL is repositioning itself as a news and information company,” Seed programming director Saul Hansell said Tuesday as he demonstrated the website at the annual South By South West (SXSW) gathering of technophiles. AOL editors post assignment descriptions on an online Seed bulletin board. Pay for writing jobs ranges from five dollars to 300 dollars per article. Writers then submit their versions of a story along with headlines and pictures. AOL editors sift through queues of submissions deciding whether to accept, reject or kick stories back for improvement. Authors names are displayed on stories at AOL Web properties without “asterisks saying ‘look at the cute little citizen journalists,'” Hansell said. Freelancers that have proven themselves may be given personal assignments and invited to pitch story ideas. Seed is in a testing phase and is expected to evolve with feedback
Over the next two weeks, the BBC will work closely with non-profit blogging network Global Voices Online. BBC news will engage with blogging posts from the network, while Global Voices’s managing editor, Solana Larsen, will get involved in news production in the BBC’s newsroom. Global Voices is a community of more than 200 bloggers which aims to bring translation and reports from the developing countries. It was founded in 2005 at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Before its partnership with the BBC, it had already collaborated with news groups Reuters and CNN. BBC news decided on a collaboration with Global Voices as part of the BBC’s SuperPower feature exploring the special power of the internet, presented by Aleks Krotoski. To take more advantage of that special power, the director of BBC global news, Peter Horrocks, urged BBC news journalists in a recent speech to take social media as an additional source of news more seriously
After a three year hiatus, Yahoo News is once again opening up to news commenters. The site, which has been the top source of online news in the US for several years now, has quietly added a standard commenting feature to all of its articles, which allows visitors to post their opinions, respond to specific views left by others, and vote comments up or down. Most of its big (and smaller) rivals already feature similar systems. Yahoo News had previously allowed its users to comment on news articles via message boards. But the company shut those down in late 2006 in part because of the poor quality of discussion. This time around, Yahoo has added filtering technologies to its comment streams, in order to ensure that higher quality comments are highlighted
Pro-am photo and video agency Citizenside has completed a hat-trick of French newspapers by signing up a third partner, Le Parisien. Le Parisien is the latest title to use Citizenside’s reporter kit, which gives news organisations a tool to find and encourage users who contribute reliable, news-related images and videos. Earlier this month the company announced its deal with Metro International and the launch of the MetroReporter site, which creates a community for users to share images and videos with each and the title’s editors, as part of the French edition. But the new section of Le Parisien’s site using Citizenside’s technology, You, is distinctly different from previous deployments of the reporter kit by publishers, said Matthieu Stefani, vice president of Citizenside.com. You.leparisien.fr will add text contributions from readers, such as eye witness accounts of events, alongside images and video. “Non-validated content” submitted by users will be displayed alongside material that has been editorially verified to increase the speed of publication with fact-checking carried out ‘a posteriori’ and a third-party company used to filter, but not verify, material before publishing. The site also takes news feeds from Le Parisien’s main site to mix amateur and professional content within the microsite
The Paris-based citizen photojournalism agency Citizenside has partnered with Metro International to launch a new website for citizen reporting. The site, MetroReporter, allows readers to upload and share their news photos and video. All contributions are vetted by editors before being posted. If they are published in print or on Metro’s primary site, the member is paid between €10 and €70. Membership of MetroReporter is free and Metro has agreed to purchase and publish user contributions on a regular basis. This means that an international publication has plans to regularly pay its audience to contribute content, rather than expecting user-generated content to be free. MetroReporter is part of the MetroFrance site, exposing it to the publication’s high traffic. This is a pilot project in France and there are plans to establish similar sites in seven other countries. Citizenside also recently formed a partnership with French radio station RTL, which has launched the website Témoins RTL (RTL Witnesses). This site allows users to upload photos and videos, and if other media organisations wish to purchase them, RTL sells the images and then pays their creator. The site uses geo-location and users who have provided their place of residence can receive email alerts about events that are taking place nearby
Since early November, the French users of Google News have been able to narrow their search results geographically. Thanks to a new ‘location’ (or lieu) field, residents of the République Française can enter a city or postal code to look for articles from a specific area. Google launched this feature in the United States in February, 2008. It then became available to India, the UK, Canada and Germany. The Silicon Valley giant is pursuing its mission to organise information on the web and increase revenues from targeted advertising.
“We work hard to improve our algorithm, including its ability to understand the relevant locations for a news story and the location of the source that reports a story,” software engineer Mikey Levine wrote on the official Google News blog.
The refined Google News search engine comes as local news is developing online. Thanks to the Internet’s unlimited space, minimal distribution costs and interactive potential, fresh local news sites have emerged. In Paris, for example, the online-only news sites Dixhuitinfo.com and Le75020.fr focus on individual arrondissements. Several journalists provide content for each.
From print to web
The traditional local press is also expanding its online offerings. Ouest France, France’s highest-selling newspaper, available in dozens of local versions, has created Maville.com for local news and practical information in 70 communes (or districts).
It also runs another site, Infolocale.fr to collect information about events for its websites and newspapers. The platform has 50,000 registered users, Ouest France claims.
Les Journaux du Midi, a press group from southern France, has launched 24 H Actus, a blog platform for its local correspondents. It allows journalists – usually part-time writers living inside local communities – to publish more articles than they are able to in the group’s print papers.
Les Journaux du Midi writers do not get paid for this extra work – just 30 euro to cover their Internet access fees, Le Figaro’s Internet and social media blog reports.
How to make money?
The local press, like the press in general, is looking for ways to generate more revenue online. Libération, a national daily, runs local news websites in eight cities. Olivier Bertrand, editor for the Lyon version, said “the site would not exist if the newspaper was not there to pay for it,” in an article in the daily Le Monde. Convincing local advertisers to use the web is proving difficult for local news providers, writes Le Monde’s Xavier Ternisien.
Meanwhile, so-called “citizen journalism” is thriving. “There are several hundred bloggers following local news in France, and the numbers are growing,” said Nicolas Guillaume, a web entrepreneur who is developing a local news aggregator, Regioo.fr. Regioo.fr is currently modelled on Digg: readers can submit and vote for posts, creating a hierarchy among contents and grouping them by region. A new hyperlocal version is in the making, Guillaume said. He is looking at ways to group content by commune and even by street. Guillaume, a blogger himself (from the city of Besançon), believes his platform will offer a service different from Google News.
“Many independent bloggers find it difficult to get referenced by Google News. We will be open to everyone,” he said. He is also searching for ways to pay bloggers for their work. “Targeted, or even geolocated advertising, can be helpful for users, because they see it more positively. … But we have to be careful. In my opinion advertising alone can not adequately finance such sites.”
“The future of the media and the local media is linked to the future of telecommunications,” Guillaume predicts.
“There are less and less newspaper shops on rural areas, and delivery is expensive. At the same time there is more and more broadband access, even in rural areas. So I think that local news in the coming years will go through the web and mobile phones.” Indeed, the landscape of local news is likely to change in the next couple of years with technology playing a significant role in shaping it