NowPublic and OurMedia

…slurps coffee on an overcast Easter Sunday, catching up on week’s flagged news while contemplating going for a run to offset impending chocolate overload…time to check out two interesting grassroots media projects which launched this week: OurMedia and NowPublic.

OurMedia provides free storage and bandwidth for citizen content creators to post and store text, audio, images and even video. It’s still in alpha but after seven months of development seems remarkably solid. There’s already some great content up there waiting to be discovered and shared. It’s a hugely altruistic project and wonderful to see.

One of the disadvantages of the democratization of stored media is that often that the content can fall to the lowest common denominator. My brief search uncovered some content which really must only be of interest to its creator, having little broad appeal such as an old blog banner graphic with the creator’s name on it. OurMedia’s appeal (at least to me) relies on it being a resource of interesting content, so I hope the cream floats to the top. That said, if content only has a valid audience of one, then perhaps still it’s worth keeping for posterity, as long as it’s not at the cost of content with broader appeal. I wonder if the economics or funding will allow such casual use and hope that meantime content creators exercise suitable discretion.

NowPublic is a project which aims to put control of the news in the hands of the consumer. The idea is that you can post assignments to citizen journalists who then research and post that news back. Equally citizen journalists who have a story can use NowPublic to find their audience. Like a clearing house for news demand and generation. It’s an ambitious project and still in early days. It has echos of WikiNews to me in its approach.

Sadly, already some of the assignments are dated or have since been covered in other news outlets eg the launch of Yahoo 360. I wonder though whether fundamentally it will work. The concept of demanding a news item seems peculiar to me. I’m interested in news about an organization, person, country or topic and want to follow any events surrounding those subjects, so my assignments will be permanent and generic ie tell me anything about Google or France. I can’t request a specific story until I’m already aware of it, and that reduces NowPublic to analysis or researching fringe elements of the story.

The financials also seem awkward. None of the assignments I reviewed had budgets allocated to them, though clearly that’s the intention of the site. Even if I did allocate a budget, how much would I spend given the huge number of free sources of information at my disposal? Even if I and 100 other news demanders pledged $5 for a story, that hardly provides a staple income for budding reporters to investigate a story, cover expenses and make a living.

I like the concept and I hope it works, but my sense is that news is more about the broadcasting of unknown information, than the demand of known stories.

…drains last drop of coffee…time for that run.