Goodbye AP. Hello….iamnews.com?

(Nir Ofir, founder of iamnews.com, presenting at TechCrunch. Photo courtesy of TechCrunch.)

Even as newspapers struggle, there’s been no shortage of start-ups being created offering new visions for collecting, aggregating and publishing news. That’s what makes this particular era exciting, even if it’s painful to watch the decline of newspapers.

At the recent TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco, I came across one of the most intriguing news-related start-ups I’ve found in this space for some time: iamnews.com. Founded by Israeli social media guru Nir Ofir, it’s in early, early, early stage as you’ll see if you visit the site. But the concept behind it was exciting enough that it won the “People’s Choice” award at the conference.

There’s two big reasons iamnews.com is worth following. First, it’s creating an interesting collaborative publishing platform to connect writers and editors to gather content and produce journalism. If it really takes off, it would allow a single blogger to create a virtual, networked newsroom based on a single story assignment.

And second, Ofir has hit on an intriguing business model. In essence, he wants iamnews.com to become the Associated Press of the blogosphere.

Ofir has been working on various social media initiatives in Israel for several years. And he describes iamnews.com as “pretty alpha.” You can give them your email and request an invitation to be part of the testing and development phase.

The basic idea is that anyone, either a solo blogger up to a big metro daily newspaper, can create an account at iamnews that allows them to create story assignments. A person fills out the details of the story they want to do, the information the need, the interviews they want done, and the type of media (written, audio, video, etc.). That assignment then gets posted at iamnews.com.

Other people can join iamnews.com to be reporters (actually, you can be both an assigning editor AND a reporter if you want). Those reporters can then sift through the assignments and offer to do some or all of the work. Likewise, the assigning editor can ping various reporters to see if they’re interested.

Once the work has been “assigned,” the reporters can upload any content they gathered on behalf of an editor right to a special account for that project. At this point, iamnews.com becomes a project management tool. All the text, video and audio goes into an account for just that story assignment.

After all that raw material is in place, the editor can then export it with a single click to their blog or Web site. Once that material is in the blog post, the editor then needs to shape it and edit it as he or she would if they were writing and embedding the information from scratch.

Currently, the one-click export only works with a Blogger.com account. But Ofir is planning to expand it to work with any blogging platform. And larger newsrooms can customize it to create a version that essentially allows them to make assignments to people outside their newsroom in the community. For instance, my newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, could launch something like: newsroom.mercurynews.com where reporters and editors inside the paper could post assignments for members of the community.

None of these transactions between editors and reporters involve money. So what is the revenue source? And why in the world would anyone spend time doing this? This is where I think Ofir has gotten creative.

When an editor makes an assignment, and when a reporter uploads content, they both agree to share the rights to this raw material with iamnews.com. Ofir will then turn around and try to make a secondary market for this material by allowing other blogs, news sites, or anyone, to purchase it. Any money made on the re-sale of that content gets split three ways between iamnews.com, the editor, and the reporter.

“The biggest opportunity is to create an alternative to AP and Reuters,” Ofir said.

Will it work? I think Ofir has got an enormous challenge ahead of him in terms of making a market for that raw content. Everyone is well aware of how hard it is to get anyone to pay for anything online when it comes to content. He won’t just have to get someone to pay, he’s got to offer up the raw material behind the content in a way that’s somehow more appealing than just linking to the finished product. Also, he’s got to figure out an adequate way to split whatever revenue does come in from those sales.

That said, I walked away from my talk with Ofir hoping he’ll find a way to pull it off. If he does, I think it’s potentially a powerful new tool to expand the reach of a lot newsrooms that have or will be emerging in the coming years.

Finally, you can find a video of Ofir making his pitch at TechCrunch50 (via the TechCrunch50 site) here.

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3 Responses

  1. How will editors discern who/what a reporter/journalist is? Is there some kind of process that identifies credentials?

  2. Joe: Thanks for posting here! I don’t think that process is in place–yet. I believe that’s something that Nir still needs to develop. In part, I expect there will be some kind of reputation and rating system (ala eBay). But I agree that it’s likely a vital piece to sort out.

  3. Chris: I think the most important thing the news industry could do right now is create a credentials body, some type of association that comes up with a set of standards for recognizing reporters as credentialed, active members of a legitimate news agency. A legit news agency should be a licensed business within some municipal jurisdiction, carry liability insurance, be adjudicated by the courts etc… Reporters that work within those agencies could then hold such a credential, which would in essence be a “seal.” The California Highway Patrol used to provide such a credential for members of accredited California news agencies but abruptly stopped a few years ago. A central credentialing body is needed in today’s news environment.

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