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The myth of the citizen journalist July 17, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in chronicnews, local search, Pontification, unbundled content, Unbundled Media, user interface.
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I’ve been in a dialogue with someone whose been involved with the whole citizen’s journalist thing and asks a good question.

How do you plan to get people in each of the communities to view the sites and more importantly contribute to the site? The whole contribute thing is a big problem for a lot of people and it is one that I have yet to see a solution that works on a constant basis for multiple communities.

My response:

Our approach is slightly different. But this tiny difference matters in terms of the sustainability. Without going into the long history of how we got here I’ll explain.

We target certain bloggers in an area based on criteria yet to be formalized (nice way of saying we just wing it). Then we send them letters and ask for permission to aggregate their blogs and its almost always given. Once the slate is set we proceed to automatically aggregate the feeds. The software displays the product in a fashion designed to emulate a human editorial team – i.e. not too many items from a single blog at once and a good mixture of content types and voices.

The aggregation creates natural urls and pings the blog directories and search bots to say its updated every hour or so. It creates a huge index and search visibility rather fast but can be a technological problem keeping things fast.

So to answer the question in a round about way the content isn’t dependant on group participation from average readers..I tried this and its not really a business model that works consistently enough. Dan Gilmour started Bayosphere at the same time and learned this as well. The citizen journalist is a myth. You are either a journalist or you are not and theoretically we are all citizens of the web.

Think of ours as tapping into a new source for content from a semi-professional sort — the constant blogger if you will.

I guess the last thing here is that we are trying to create ways to attract and keep the better bloggers but that’s another discussion.

That is our key difference and we’re working on ways to massage these content sources better. Its the current focus and will be manifest in http://chronicblogs.com relatively soon — sometime this week I hope..

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