A young start-up looking to revolutionize and gamify crowd-sourced news announced Thursday that it raised $500,000 in seed funding.
NewsiT, founded by long-time journalist Melinda Wittstock, who has worked for the Guardian, the Observer, ABC News, National Public Radio, and MSNBC, made this funding announcement and unveiled its iPhone app just in time to hit South by Southwest on Thursday to show the tech world what journalism can learn from the advances of Internet innovation.
Wittstock knows that not everyone has the desire, time or experience to be a field journalist, but many people have elements of expertise or eyewitness accounts that they can contribute to create a great story -- this is why she has put her energy into creating a new way to crowd-source content for news organizations.
"I come at it from a journalist perspective and I was seeing that big data was being used to change other industries, social networks were changing many industries and gamification was changing being adopted by so many organizations," Wittstock told me in an interview. "But the journalism industry was not harnessing these changes. So I wanted to create a ay to empower people to report the news that matters to them, while allowing journalists to over see the quality and focus on their specialties and gain tips."
How it works
NewsiT staffers create assignments and members of the NewsiT service offer up different content to source together an article. Content provided could be expert interviews, photos, video, quotes, survey questions or eyewitness accounts.
Then NewsiT will take the content turned in and edit together a report on the topic given. As the young service matures, the tailored algorithm will weigh the content provided by different members based on accuracy, quality and reporting skills tracked over time.
On one of the first assignments sent out by NewsiT was accepted by more than 40 members and nearly one hundred piece of content or data points was contributed in the first three hours.
As contributors continue to take and complete assignments, members are rewarded with badges of accomplishment such as Gawker, Wordsmith, Ace, and Social Butterfly.
Bloggers that wish to be a part of this system, can promote traffic to their other content and journalist can use this service to crowd-source eyewitness accounts and find experts on given topics. Also media groups can use this service as a tool to supplement the content they give their readers to free up time for their journalist to work in their specialities.
During the SXSW event this week, NewsiT is promoting a competition to members that are encouraged to contribute as many data-points as possible to get complete coverage of the tech even in Austin. The member that by the close of SXSW has added the most content about the event will win the newest iPad.
Even though the service just went live a few weeks ago, NewsiT already has more than 500 contributing members.
NewsiT has established a three planked hybrid revenue model. One part contextual ads that relate to niche areas of focus or locations being reported on, part content sales and part licensing of the platform technology.
Wittstock explained that the strength that NewsiT has over other citizen journalism sites is the algorithm and oversight that it has, since journalists will assure accuracy and quality in reporting and advertisers won't have to risk their content running with sensational reporting.
There has also been a lot of interest from various media companies that would like to license the NewsiT API as well as buying the content created through the platform.
"There are a lot of eye witnesses that can contribute and make a story better," Wittstock said. "What no one else does is deconstruct the story building process like we have done and it can have a really revolutionary impact on meeting the demands of how we consume media."