ANTON RIPPON on the latest twist in the shift from newsprint to online “platforms”
A couple of weeks ago I asked the editor of a regional daily why his newspaper was seemingly obsessed with snow. Every day – and sometimes twice a day – on the paper’s website there was a new snow story – it was expected to snow; it wasn’t expected to snow.
It explained why there were also stories with headlines like: “Shots fired on city street”, that when you clicked you discovered that the city in question is 60 miles away. Such a story wouldn’t make it into the print edition because it would be impossible to hide the location behind the headline – you’ve got the paper in front of you on the newsstand.
But on the website? Anything goes as long as you get people to click.
That shift in attitudes, and standards, as journalism moves increasingly from newsprint to online “platforms” can be seen in something I came across this week, called Blasting News. It is Swiss-based and calls itself “a citizen journalism platform” that is “a new way of seeing journalism” and which is looking for both “Junior Blasters” and “Certified Blasters” to provide its content.
SJA members may be interested because sport is one subject that Blasting News covers. While Junior Blasters can only propose content for publication and are paid according to the number of views on their articles, Certified Blasters, who are “professional and experienced journalists” (although the website can’t spell “professional”) can both self-publish and approve the contents of the junior, and are paid according to the number of views of their own articles and those of the junior.
The Certified Blaster “will have the task of writing the Opening Package of the homepage of the country” (there are 33 countries involved) and that package will comprise a main piece of not less than 3,000 characters (not words) of “original/unique” news, together with two short pieces (1,000 characters minimum) supporting the main piece, and at least three photographs (copyright free or paid for by the Certified Blaster but certainly not by Blasting News), and an optional video of between 30 and 75 seconds’ duration. They say that each written article is scanned by automated anti-plagiarism technology
The enterprise promises that by joining Blasting News you can “become a real reporter” and talk to a global audience of more than 10 million people. Nicole Gianella, a 24-year-old from Rome, tells us: “Blasting News has given me the opportunity to experience a reporter’s life.” If only it had been that easy …
We’re also promised that “anyone can become a blaster” and we “don’t need to get into the ‘circle of journalism’.” Which brings me on to worrying about citizen journalism.
The problem lies in how much credibility can be afforded to the contributions of citizen journalists. Ideally, they should be held to the same standards as professionals. But citizen journalists rarely have the training or experience.
For most it is simply a hobby, and one that can have serious consequences. In 2008, a user on CNN’s citizen journalism platform, iReport, posted that the founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, had been “rushed to ER after suffering a major heart attack”. Some other news outlets repeated the information as credible, and the value of Apple’s stock dropped by 5.4 per cent. It recovered later that day, when it was confirmed that the information was untrue.
Blasting News, though, promises “not to compromise on quality” and to promote “information written by individuals showing a high level of expertise, authority and trustworthiness in their areas of interest”. I hope so. I wouldn’t want a citizen electrician to rewire my house.
I wish that we could return to the days when professionals only reported the news – and only news that would be sure to make it on to newsprint, not simply published because it guaranteed clicks on a website. There is a difference.
But Blasting News is at least offering to pay for submissions, which is an important step-up from some websites, and that of itself might encourage a professional attitude among its contributors. If they are able to fathom the pay-per-click formula which Blasting News offers to its “Master Blasters”.
If you fancy trying your luck and don’t mind supplying pictures at your own expense, then bear in mind that payment up to 150 euros per content is calculated on the basis of the unique views obtained within 30 days of publication. At least that is what I think it says but, to be honest, I found the formula largely impenetrable. Perhaps best check it out for yourself on www.blastingnews.com.
As the website says: “Blasters earn money thanks to a quality-based system: the more people read the content, the more money the Blaster receives.” Better start lining up those snow stories.
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