Can a ragtag group of former newspapermen from the L.A. Times help newspapers fight off the content farms of the Web The founders and backers of Ebyline, which has been in private beta for a few months and launches today more broadly, think they can streamline the way news organizations manage freelancers and syndicate their own articles. Some publishers testing out the system include Variety, ProPublica, and The Texas Observer.
Ebyline is a marketplace for freelance journalists and syndicated news. Freelancers must be invited by an editor at a participating publication, or be vetted through an application. They can pitch story ideas into the open marketplace, or take assignments directly from editors they work with. The freelance writer and editor agree on a price, the freelancer submits drafts through the system, and once the editor accepts it after any necessary revisions, payment is authorized. The story can then be dumped into whatever ancient content management system the newspaper uses.
Similarly, publishers can syndicate their own articles to other newspapers and sites. For instance, Variety uses it to syndicate its movie reviews. Ebyline takes an 8 percent cut from each transaction. Ebyline streamlines the process and helps editors manage and discover many more freelancers than through lengthy phone calls or face-to-face meetings. But there is a big emphasis on maintaining quality by restricting access, as opposed to content farms like Demand Media or AOL’s Seed, which are designed to manage tens of thousands of freelance submissions.
The founders, Allen Narcisse and Bill Momary, both used to work at the L.A. Times. Backers include Jeffrey Johnson, the former publisher of the L.A. Times who was famously fired in 2006 for refusing to gut the newsroom, as well as Leo Wolinsky, editor-in-chief of Variety and former managing editor of the L.A. Times.
The idea of news exchanges seem to be gaining in popularity. At our first TechCrunch Disrupt last May, Publish2 launched with ethe concept of a news exchange to replace the AP by letting news organizations and blogs automate their syndication. Tools such as Ebyline and Publish2 are supposed to give print publishers a fighting chance against the encroachments of online media, but these marketplaces will only become interesting once online-only sites start using them too.