Howdy, partner…

The development team have been working flat out over the past few weeks in not only radically redesigning the entire site – a significant departure from the rough and ready Beta v1 site you can see now – (set for roll out by the end of the year) but also in building our Partner Channel feature which is scheduled for testing from November 09.

The premise of the Partner Channel is pretty simple: as a platform, indiconews can help organizations crowd-source relevant content for their news gathering needs, civic reporting, community issues, campaigns, research, event-based coverage etc.

This also means that if you’re a newspaper/news organization our system helps manage the pro/am gap – enabling you to securely generate relevant content for your publications via our Partner Channel features through targeted assignments and tip-offs that our users can respond to in an organized and meaningful way.

Indiconews: bridging the pro/am gap

Indiconews: bridging the pro/am gap

Partner Channels not only give users the opportunity to represent their communities, share their news, post updates on emerging stories, discuss issues relevant to their interest/location, but as a partner, they also give you the tools to bring the content creators into your news gathering process in a relevant, yet empowering way. By embracing this rich resource you will have a deeper understanding of the audience and communities you serve – and in turn the communities will embrace you.

So, we’re looking for innovative organisations, groups, news and media outlets, other websites, higher education establishments, charities, documentary makers etc to test our offering.

We will have a working prototype ready by mid-Nov, but are keen to roll up our sleeves and get in front of potential partners to showcase this resource, answer questions and get you to sign up to test the system for yourselves.

We at indiconews want to be part of a new generation of logical, relevant crowd-sourced collaborative pro/am platforms, and think our Partner Channel development is a step in the right direction.

Regardless, we’re always on the look out to create meaningful collaborations, connections or knowledge-sharing activities with any organisation that, like us, wants to push the civic media envelope, wherever they are in the world.

Please get in touch directly: e.hodgson@indiconews.com

Thanks.

Elizabeth Hodgson – indiconews founder

Crunch day

We’re off to TechCrunch London today. The event is hosted by TechCrunch Europe editor, Mike Butcher.

The spiel on TC site of the even says: “The “TechCrunch London” event is themed “Startups in a cold climate: getting real in the recession”. But although the title of the session sounds downbeat, the reality is that the recession has created many opportunities for startups, something we’ll be exploring. Like all TechCrunch events, it is designed to bring together startups, seasoned entrepreneurs, investors and key industry players for sharing of knowledge and great networking, TechCrunch style.

The supported by Seedcamp, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), Bootlaw the free boot camp for emerging technology, internet and digital professionals run by Winston & Strawn, as well as the Press Association.”

We’re going along in order to attend seminars, and of course network. Our friends from Comufy will be there for the later part of the event (they’re busy attending Seedcamp Week!). Comufy is a fantastic start up that aims to be the next generation in communications. (It’s a system that we’re implementing into our site in Nov as part of our new design roll out).

We’ll be tweeting from the event – so follow our day: #indiconews

What’s the real cost of the Paywall?

OPINION: I’ve been thinking, a lot, about Rupert Murdoch’s crusade to get News International’s online news content behind a paywall. There are arguments on the pro’s and con’s on both sides (pro: research intensive specialist content like Wall Street Journal and FT.com) but it will come as no surprise that I think the creation and sharing of information should not, on the whole, be confined by the rules of a single organisation.

I also think this shines a light on a far bigger issue. Old school media is on its knees because it’s still playing by old school rules and the discussion of a paywall only compounds this.

The thing is, everything changed in the mid to late 1990’s with the arrival of Lycos, Yahoo, Altavista and then of course, Google. Hurtle forward 15 years and you’re seeing mainstream media in a panic. So what do they do? They default back to the only solution they know: force ’em to pay.

But will they? In a recent survey, only 5% of UK respondents said they were prepared to pay for online news while 74% said they would find another free site.

Also take it on a step further – if you force people to pay, might it actually isolate mainstream media from the rest of the mobile phone wielding, podcasting, image sharing, video uploading, networked world; a world where a single image posted to a (free) social media site can change the political direction of an entire nation?

As founder of an online civic media site, I am bound to say that. After all, I want our platform to challenge the view that news, information and opinion have always to come from one source. These days we can all engage in the news process in a way that frees us from hierarchical mechanisms – primarily thanks to technology.

Mumbai massacre, Hudson River plane crash, Iran elections, Zimbabwe farm razings, Michael Jackson’s death: these stories were broken by “ordinary” people, for free and without limitation.

So for me, the answer is simple: collaborate.

Just think about the millions of other stories and events that go unreported in this world every day – where leads and eyewitness accounts can help build a whole picture and dare I say, force change where change is needed.

I fundamentally believe mainstream news organisations and the thousands of professional journalists play a vital role in this world – and here is an opportunity for them to reinforce their relevance. They can help make sense of the senseless. They can find the voice of reason in the sonic boom of hyperbole. Surely mainstream media would be giving their right arm for a piece of this crowd-sourced action?

Of course, I hope indiconews will be the place for such collaboration, where established news organisations and the general public can work together in the creation and delivery of news.

That’s why we set up the platform: instead of excluding people, the ones who in essence MAKE the news, we should, no, must, include them in the news agenda. Empower them, engage with them, embrace them. Give them the tools, the platform, the opportunity to represent their communities, to create new ones, share their experiences and then bring them into your news gathering process.

Why? Because we’re going to do it with or without you anyway.

Maybe Murdoch will prove he can make his paywall work. Then again, maybe his organisation should be careful not to cut off its nose to spite its face.

Elizabeth Hodgson – Indiconews.com founder

News about indiconews…

We’ve been busy here at Indiconews Towers – lots of development while redesign is shaping up well for roll out in Nov 09.

We have a couple of very interesting collaborations that we’re hoping to announce in the next two weeks… but in the meantime, we’ve had a fantastic chat with our friend Ewen Rankin at Bageltechnews – a great technology podcast. The interview sums up where we’re “at”…

Take a listen here.

NewsInnovation unconference – who, what, why?

I’m off to Media Standards Trust NewsInnovation unconference tomorrow held at the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts in London.

It is hoped the event will give journalists the opportunity to discuss possibilities about the future of the troubled news industry by engaging with others from across the technological spectrum, including developers, start-ups, commentators and innovators.

The idea for the event came from MST’s Martin Moore and web developer Mark Ng, who also works with the Trust. Topics set to be discussed include:

Martin Belam (Information Architect at The Guardian):

  • The Tyranny of Chronology – from the Anglo-Saxon chronicle to the browse structures of the 21st century, via the clippings library.

Andrew Walkingshaw (Timetric):

  • What people are doing with computational/database journalism
  • Publishing, sourcing and finding stories in data.

Nicole Green:

  • How quality can be maintained in journalism as turnaround of news, and length of time a story is newsworthy is seriously shortened due to viral way in which news is being communicated
  • Does it force journalists into taking tenuous lines, just to come up with something new?

Jonathan Markwell

  • Non technical people talking about things they’d like to be able to do with the web
  • Twitter applications for news.

Judith Townend

  • Innovative uses of data / media ethics discussion / how journalists and tech people can work better together
  • Implications of ‘beta journalism’ on media ethics and standards.

Hannah Waldram

  • Video, hyper-local news websites.

Cristiano Gerard Betta (Web Developer at Nudge):

  • When does news become something more than just Facts? Is social media able to give us more than just facts and rumors?
  • Show why open data is important and why anyone involved with news should strive to more open data.

Toby Moores

  • Avoiding the speed arms race
  • Different manifestations of the journalistic skillset.

Mike Atherton

  • How the more established news agencies are dealing with social media – as a threat or something to be embraced?
  • The need for more early adopters of emerging and disruptive media to be used as outriders by ‘classic’ media.

Elizabeth Hodgson (Indiconews.com)

  • Potential collaborative/pro-am news generation (plus ask what are the mutual rewards?)
  • Do we need to explore an industry-wide voluntary civic news code of conduct to help create a level of credibility? Or should it be left to individual sites/organisations?

Sue Greenwood (www.sweeble.com)

  • What other people are doing/thinking about doing – espec. in relation to data mining and archives.
  • Encouraging community engagement in news.

David Jennings

  • Examples of commercial niche news services abundance
  • Discovery, learning, knowing when to stop.

Rob Shepherd

  • What journalists want from PR in the digital age: what do you want, and how, when and where do you want it?
  • Open source news dissemination models (e.g. Guardian Online ) vs ‘make the buggers pay’ models (e.g. Murdoch stated aim for News Int’l). Who can win, how and what does it mean for us all?

Other attendees include:
Charlie Beckett, Polis, London School of Economics
Martin Belam, guardian.co.uk
Simon Willison, Guardian
Mike Butcher, TechCrunch Europe
Gavin Freeguard, Media Standards Trust
Paul McNally, Press Gazette
Alan Marshall, Press Association
Helia Phoenix, The National Assembly for Wales

I’ll blog my views/experience after the event.

Will the door finally open for grassroots media?

This post on Paid Content has been kicking around for the last week or so, but it has some interesting – and I think apt – observations that include:

Publishers and enthusiasts must work together
Community contributors must be properly rewarded
City papers should stop competing with nationals, return to their neighbourhoods
Realise readers already have direct-data news

Read the full post here.

When is news actually news… and who should define it?

It’s not supposed to be a deep philosophical question, but it does demand a bit of deeper thinking.

The trouble I’ve always had with mainstream media is that it’s been a very top-own approach to information dissemination. On the one hand I understand this: we have people (journalists) whose job it is to ensure the information we do consume in MSM is correct. They also report it in a skilled manner that makes it digestible for the reader. Yet on the other, often the “news” comes from everyday people. So what happens if the people do the reporting instead?

Well, the argument by many in MSM is that this raw, basic information isn’t actually news until the professional, established news organisations say it is.

Civic media, bloggers and those within the emerging news model are – in the eyes of less progressive MSM outlets – somewhat second class citizens. And herein lies the hypocrisy: you cannot on the one hand say “you are not relevant” but on the other actively request the general public to get in touch with stories/be a source.

Then within this argument, we have the issue of what is and isn’t news – or rather what is or isn’t relevant. What might be of significance to you may not be to me, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to share or report on that issue just because I don’t find it relevant. Others might. It could also help broaden my views. Yet for years this is exactly what MSM has been feeding us: We know what is newsworthy – you don’t.

From educators and community group leaders, to volunteers in charities and the regular ‘Jo/e’: Why shouldn’t they have the space to report what’s happening in their world?

Is it because they might be biased? Again, the argument flung back by some in MSM is that only professional journalists and editors can safeguard against any bias. Really? Take a look at a range of newspapers and you’ll see bias very clearly. It’s what we’ve all pretty much been brought up on. We know the Daily Mail has a very different news agenda to The Guardian. They have a different world view and their pages (both in print and online) reflect this unapologetically.

We have editors setting the agenda (or in some cases the newspaper owners), we have papers in the pockets of political leaders and councils. Lift the lid on MSM and it’s not all worthy hacks tirelessly crafting copy exposing bungs in the local football league or questioning the actions of local councils. Yes, it does happen, but lets take off the rose tinted glasses and get a bit of perspective.

We need to create opportunities for transparency and debate from ALL perspectives – crucial in a democracy. We need to reinvigorate how  MSM can and must engage with CM; help them understand that it can be a positive force for not only them, but also the community they serve.

Perhaps the days where news is created by the few, and consumed by the masses are coming to an end. How we manage this potential free-for-all is a different matter… but we’re working on it.