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Newspapers should empower citizen journalism

by Sunil Abraham last modified Oct 23, 2012 08:47 AM
A single content-management system can be used to publish highly-targeted and customised content. Sunil Abraham, director, Centre for Internet and Society (CIS India), believes traditional newspapers should expose their primary research databases such as photos, video and audio recordings, and documents to the public using web technologies.

With every generation of technology, businesses are affected and have to reinvent themselves along with their business models. Today, this is very true of traditional newspapers and the Internet. To begin with, there is the opportunity and threat presented for traditional media by the rise of citizen journalists. Given the penetration of mobile phones, and the emergence of micro-blogging services like Twitter, it is possible for ordinary citizen to create press-worthy reportage.
Some initial experiments like Scoopt.com, Spy Media and Cell Journalist, which allowed citizen journalists to sell content to traditional media, have, by and large, failed, but I am certain there will be many commercial and non-commercial services emerging in this area, like — Demotix.com.

Demotix currently has 8,300 reporters from 110 countries. The second opportunity is the plurality of delivery mechanisms available, thanks to digital technologies. A single content-management system can be used to publish highly targeted and customised content across several digital technologies such as SMS, GPRS, Twitter, RSS, Email, HTML, etc. Some of these formats like LATEX and PDF allow readers to print out personalised individual and institutional newspapers.

Most of these technology options are not exercised because of the conservatism of the marketing departments. Those responsible for collecting advertisement revenues and maintaining sales target keep asking 'how can we monetise that piece of content'. Their traditional business model only allows them to target subscribers and advertisers.

Once they account for their role in public attention aggregation and bandwidth consumption they could try and generate income from Internet service providers and telecom operators.

The third opportunity is interactivity. These days, a story no longer ends when the ink hits the paper. That is only considered the beginning, and there is sufficient discussion today about the transformative role played by citizens on mailing lists, discussion forums, blogs and wiki, ensuring that the story continues. I would like to focus on the process before the story hits the press or the content-management system, especially those stories that need sustained investigation or exhaustive time-consuming research. I believe traditional newspapers should expose their primary research databases such as photos, video and audio recordings, and documents to the public using web technologies.

If this is done in a truly open and transparent manner, online volunteer energy will lend a much-needed shoulder to traditional journalism. As a consequence, the reader will be engaged even before the story.

 

Link to the original article (Page 12)


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