Can Citizen Journalism work in the UK? Blottr thinks it has the formula

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Arguably, in the age of Facebook and, to a greater degree, Twitter, the early excitement around so-called Citizen Journalism has been surpassed by social media. But that isn’t stopping London-based Blottr, founded by Adam Baker, which thinks it’s found the right formula – a mix of collaborative publishing, ‘authentication algorithm’ and revenue sharing – to give the idea a new lease of life.

That’s not to say that social media is absent, sharing of articles via Facebook and Twitter is actively encouraged and tweets are automatically incorporated into stories, but otherwise this is more akin to a traditional online news publication, only one that is written by non-professional “journalists”.

Anyone can sign-up and begin writing a news story or making revisions to an existing one, including adding photos or video. Stories are categorised and users are asked to pinpoint the location relevant to the story on a map. Wiki-style, each story has a revision history (to cover the full cycle of an event) and a list of contributors but it’s the ‘authentication algorithm’ that Blottr says make it stand out from other Citizen Journalism offerings. It attributes credibility to each story based on factors like how “influential” the author is on Blottr, how many other people have contributed to the story and how many times its been shared on Facebook and Twitter or been bookmarked.

Users also have a chance to get paid for their contributions in the form of a kick back per thousand page views. This is obviously kept below Blottr’s CPM ad rate but at around £1 per thousand views – for now at least – seems quite high. Blottr says it’s seen a 20% increase in registrations since launching it revenue sharing scheme.

To that end, the site, which has been operating “under the radar”, is seeing an average of 4,500 uniques per-day (growing over 100% month-on-month over the last 3 months), while registered users currently sit at around 2,500. In terms of exposure, Baker says Blottr has been punching above its weight for organic search terms on Google for things like “Latest London news” and “Breaking London news” and that the site has been able to break stories before other media organisations and often remains the sole provider of local stories, which is also where the business model comes in. Blottr says that it plans to license its technology to 3rd parties and that they are in talks with two large media companies.

The company is privately funded by Baker but is said to be in “fairly advanced discussions” with two unnamed angel investors.

  • Luke

    I’m surprised this is the first site to do this. Obviously good idea. I like the way they show each edit as a revision. Looks like a nice site. And a UK startup, which we should all support.

  • Webmaster

    Main stream news is often shared from the same source and controlled by the same person (no names mentioned – newspaper owners you know who you are). Luke I agree it would be good to see a UK startup go global, and a a user generated site that bypasses the great censors has real world value.

  • MW

    I’ve disengaged with most journalist-prepared media drivel over the last 12 months so this could be interesting. I worry where the business model is although licensing sounds like a smart move if that’s the plan to build revenue.

  • Michelle

    Just registered and posted story….. Let’s see if I get any money!
    Particularly liked this story “disabled father requires tank license for wheel chair”!

  • Kinga

    Pretty cool concept, nice a social with a little twist!

  • RJA

    About time something like this came along! Something personally I’ve always wanted to get involved with!

    Opportunities to show off what you can do are often hard to come by!

  • Colin Bruce

    There is a definite niche between the huffpo model and guest bloggers where one of a range of circumstances entitles/empowers/invogrates some citizen journalism. I guess the trick is finding the right mechanism to reward ongoing production (in this case the bet is cash) and the right niche such that the produced content is focused and not a shot gun spread. Bleachers seems to be doing pretty well in their area.

    When I contributed to Blottr the reward was the metrics on my contribution: my own blog would not have allowed me to reach that number of people. Paying users for content is hard to manage and would not have motivated me to contribute originally or again. Ego and recognition trumps cash about 99% of the time.

  • lktsr

    If this gets mainstream it could be huge. The challenge is getting mainstream.

  • Neilio Ferguson

    I have used this site several times and enjoy the content. I particularly like the way the creators make the site user friendly and the new mood system of rating stories is great. I will continue to write stories and add them to Blottr as social media is the future. We all consume so why not write the news we read!

  • Vanessa

    I really like this idea of writing your own stories. How many stories end up untold because they are not deemed important enough!
    But would like it better if I could make comments to the news. For Example the 2010 “sion” racist row. If you look at the logo you could also see Osis or Oziz definitely implying they go for the Australians!

  • Dave Hudson

    Like MW, I have also disengaged with ‘journalist prepared media’. I also dislike intensely the way newspapers, (national, local and free) sometimes try to influence us, (or have a bias) when reporting the news. This seems particularly bad where I live in Wales; because Blottr has a Welsh News section, it gives people an alternative to ‘the local biased newspaper news’. I think it will grow and grow, especially as it is able to be the first with breaking news.

  • rabbit

    Interesting read.

  • Andy Jud

    I think its a really good idea and funny it doesn’t exist yet. Because it is user generated, there will be lots of really interesting articles.

  • Jeremy Sanders

    that’s the real deal! citizen journalism can be tough but BlottR surely deals with it the right way… rock on, guys!!

  • Bnips

    Great idea, news should be more social and collaborative.

  • obiwankebino

    That’s really something, hats off to the developers and to this great idea


    Great idea!

  • Titus

    Very impressive site and idea. I can see this exploding soon and causing a storm of controversy as journalism traditionalists try to resist the user driven way things continue to move.

  • And the walls go up « Journapreneur

    […] As Tech Crunch reports, Blottr works as follows: Anyone can sign-up and begin writing a news story or making revisions to an existing one, including adding photos or videos to the site. Stories are categorised by theme and users are asked to tag the location of each breaking news event on a map. Wiki-style, each story has a revision history and a list of contributors, whose credibility is ranked according to their influence on the site. Citizen journalist writers are also guaranteed a payment per thousand views of their piece. […]

  • kiki

    Very interesting and innovative.

  • Jazzling Owl

    I say, what a delightfully engaging site. Hat’s off to the web dev behind this exquisite hub of information architecture.

  • Moritz

    Really really interesting!

  • Alec

    Looks promising!

  • Smudge

    Looking at the popularity of the site and the constant stream of news shows how popular this is and how much potential Blottr has

  • Laura Anthony

    I have just looked at this site and what is fascinating, is it does not have a defined personality. Posts are from all walks of life with many different opinions. Independent news in a very real sense.

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