Posts Tagged 'Citizen Journalism'

NowPublic: Don’t Call It Citizen Journalism

NowPublic is one of a group of crowd-sourcing media sites thave have cropped up in recent years. Newsvine, Current, CNN’s iReport and and South Korea-based OhMyNews are others that crowd-source links to news, or let authors write or shoot video of actual original articles. News giant Gannett also jumped in the fray in late 2006. Early on, NowPublic was noted for being one of the few sites to publish AP articles and allow people to discuss them. NowPublic however, doesn’t consider itself a “citizen journalism” service, its founder tells CNet. Instead it’s a brigade of “eyes and ears.”

Some of the others in this area are not shy about calling their services news. CNN’s iReport is taglined “Unfiltered. Unedited. News” and Current says, “You Make The News… We Put It On Television.”

Recently NowPublic released a number of new features, including a points-based ranking system to increase credibility for trusted users of the site; a FriendFeed-like news stream of people’s YouTube, Flickr and Twitter activity that can act as a kind of person’s personal news service; and a personal dashboard of news, photos and videos from whereever people want to receive news.

Coming at the same problem from the local-based approach are a number of local news and information aggregators.

User Generated Content + News = ?

City University’s Neil Thurman (U.K.) has an interesting study on the use of user-generated content by news companies. Is UGC the solution to the problems that many news companies face–such as declines in print circulation, and blogs and Google sniping at their heels? Engagement is important for these companies, as is building something that fits seamlessly into the existing business.

First, from the audience perspective, how do audiences respond to “citizen journalism”? According to Thurman, the adoption has been slow so far. On a popular debate forum on BBC’s site, 0.5 percent of users contributed, which is lower than the average of 1 percent on many social media sites, noted the Guardian’s Jemima Kiss.

However, news companies aren’t social media companies, and expecting them to have Facebook-like virality is expecting too much. It is still early days and many news organizations are trying to figure this problem out. Some have been working on it for a while. The Bakersfield Californian was an early tester of this model when it launched Northwest Voice in 2004–itself inspired by South Korea’s OhMyNews.

How do news companies react to UGC? Thurman notes:

“A belief in the need to control, moderate or sub users’ submissions so that they met the standards of professionally produced output was strongly held.”

Does user generated content add to news companies’ business? The question is probably better asked as, what is the best way for news companies to drive more traffic and keep readers on their sites? Of course, the business of news is different from that of a Disney or Scion, which are building communities to engage with their audiences around their brands. News companies are built on their reputation and credibility of their news. Mixing hard news with UGC news is a delicate matter. But it is a necessary issue to confront, increasing competition on all fronts. It can be done, and is completely necessary, a number of writers have argued.

Interestingly, in the Thurman study, 80 percent of the methods used to engage users were using moderators and/or pre-editing all of the content. This seems to make it difficult for UGC sections of news sites to scale to the level of the the “professional” news portions of their sites. Either news companies will have to give in and do away with most editing of UGC (and let the misspellings and low quality postings in) or a company needs to come up with an automated solution to edit UGC. Moderated UGC sites are just too expensive, Thurman’s study found.

There are a number of companies working on different aspects of socializing news, such as Mixx, Thoof, Digg and Reddit.