Demotix is a London-based startup which has attracted a new wave of attention since the wave of civil unrest has swept the Middle East, particularly in Egypt.
The idea is not new: upload photos and videos to a platform to create an alternative news wire / agency. What is new is that as the mainstream media’s coverage of international events has been shrinking – it is no longer cost efficient to have a guy in some far-flung bureau filing the one annual story a year – so has Demotix’ coverage expanded with professional and semi-professional contributors. In each case Demotix checks out the credentials of contributors, who can then earn news agency fees from their output. It splits the revenue with photographers 50/50 each time the photo or video is sold (major photo agencies take a much larger cut and only pay photographers once). Photos sourced from Demotix have appeared on the front pages of New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, and The Guardian. In August last year it signed a deal with the Publish2 news exchange giving it access to US distribution.
Founder Turi Munthe came up with the idea while he was a political analyst, and now Demotix is becoming a highly efficient middle-man between news producers – the professional and semi-professional photojournalists and videographers – and the news distributors “in all channels in all media.” The site now has 4,000 active contributors for Somalia to Sril Lanka and everywhere in between and operates in over 190 countries around the world
As you’ll see from half way through the video, Munthe explains how the unrest in Egypt is coming pretty close to home.
Many of his contributors have been beaten by Police and backers of the government in the last few days. But at the same time Demotix is attempting to act like an HQ for contributors in the Middle East, trying to keep them safe and informed about what they can see from “30,000 feet up” as it were, especially by using social media and contacts on the ground.
Fascinatingly, Twitter has become – despite what the cynics say – a vital component for how Demotix talks to its contributors.
Communication during the Iran election unrest in 2009 was “all through email”. Munthe that now it’s almost always happening through Twitter initially, then email subsequently: “The tool of choice is Twitter, in Cairo today.”