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.
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
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
News in Gondi and Kuduk, dialects spoken by tribals of central India, may soon be only a phone call away, as citizen journalism and mobile phone technology are creating a new media outlet for the largely semi-literate and illiterate community. Shubhranshu Choudhary, former BBC producer and administrator of the Chhattisgarh Network website http://www.cgnet.in, says a mobile technology developed by Microsoft India in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology allows citizen journalists to leave voice recordings that could be accessed by others wanting to hear the latest news. “Though numbering 27 lakh according to the 2001 census, the Gonds living in five States, including Chhattisgarh, hardly have a voice of their own. The mainstream media, for various reasons, does not address the issues of tribals and most journalists do not understand the language anyway,” he says. He cites the example of farmer suicides in the State. “Now people can dial 080-66932500 and there are options to either record a news story or to listen to a news bulletin. In the first phase there are only Hindi news stories, but we are planning to expand it to include the Gondi and Kuduk dialects by the end of the one-year fellowship period,” Mr. Choudhary says. Director of the fellowship programme Elisa Tinsley says the aim is to make the project self-sustaining by possibly linking it to mainstream media organisations.
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
A study carried out as part of an online survey by the research agency DECODE as part of an international benchmark project of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers in 2008, has found that Dutch youth (based on 1,000 people between the ages of 15 to 29) are neither interested in receiving news via mobile applications nor taking part in citizen journalism projects. They also do not find newspaper sections aimed at young people a compelling reason to regularly pick up a paper. They do, however, judge news media fairly positively. Whilst initially surprising, the results of the study “Youth, news media and civic engagement,” are in line with findings of a new study by IBM’s Media and Entertainment Group, which shows that online news consumption has dropped among young adults, but risen among older consumers, calling into question the assumption that young people read more online news and older people favour printed publications. The study’s authors however, noted that it is important to avoid generalisation: Nico Drok and Fifi Schwarz, professor of media and civil society and managing director of Stichting Krant in de Klas respectively, state that there are obvious differences between those who do regularly read quality newspapers and those who do not, particularly in their levels of “interest in news and their civic engagement.” The study also showed that a large number of Dutch youth do indeed appreciate access to a wide variety of news media, but prefer stories that are more pertinent to their own lives
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
Arcadi Espada, a Catalan journalist who has frequently questioned the future of print journalism, is preparing to launch a new online only, paid for news website under the name of Factual. The daily news site, which kicks off with a starting budget of EUR 250, 000 will charge its customers an annual fee of EUR 50 for access to unlimited content and is expected to officially go live on November 30, according to El Mundo. To warm things up Espada has circulated a video via email, You Tube and other social media sites to explain the newspaper’s philosphy that whilst «paper journalism has finished, the role of journalism has not» (the slogan plays on the Spanish word ‘papel’, which means both paper and role). The clip claims that «journalism is not for sale, but you should buy it» and citicises the current state of journalism saying: «the newspaper was born amongst citizens and has ended up living in power», accusing, «lying is not news». The launch comes on the back of the closure of popular Spanish news website Soitu, which shut down after just 22 months in production. Soitu, which was recognised as being at the forefront of online journalism, similarly believed that the printed word was no longer enough to satisfy readers and looked to incorporate viedos, comments, updates etc. into their website, even developing its own social network.
A new newspaper has been launched in London, containing articles solely sourced from Blogs. The freesheet hit London on Friday (November 20, 2009), distributed at four City underground stations, as well as at Stratford in East London. The Blogpaper has no editor and its content is determined by the vote of bloggers through the theblogpaper website (theblogpaper.co.uk). “We aim to combine two different yet equally important types of media: internet and print,” the publisher says on its site. “One major cornerstone of theblogpaper’s the concept is that many people are in control of what people are going to receive (by promoting content to print). It adds, “Instead of a few people controlling the majority of what is being published and therefore read, theblogpaper aims to put the majority in charge. We believe in the power of the community, rather than in the power of the individual.” Founded by Anton Waldburg and Karl Jo Seilern, bloggers don’t get paid for their work, and plans are for the paper to be funded by advertising. Recently an ‘online newspaper with no writers’ was launched in the US. The Tewspaper uses an algorithm as opposed to journalists to scour social media sites for relevant news links.