NewsiT folds gamification into citizen journalism

Krystal Peak · March 8, 2012 · Short URL:

Crowd-sourcing journalism site lands $500,000 in seed funding to gamify news gathering

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.

Revenue model

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."


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NewsiT LLC


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NewsiT’s mobile and social platform verifies original crowd-sourced content in real time to help media, campaigns and brands attract targeted and committed consumers.

End-users get more relevant and accurate real time information – and valuable conversations with other users. People connect around interests they have in common to create, verify and share original content. NewsiT’s mobile, tablet and web crowd-sourcing apps enable anyone to report and share key story elements in text, video and photos. NewsiT algorithms, rating and reputation scoring systems and fact-checkers interact with smart NewsiT communities to guarantee veracity, quality, relevance and influence.

NewsiT drives early and recurring revenue by licensing its technology, processes and crowd-sourcing software to media, campaigns and brands to help them retain and attract highly-targeted and committed consumers. A ‘plug & play’ mobile SDK and web API provides NewsiT partners with a crowd-reporting user interface customizable by topic, location, and style – powered by sophisticated algorithms and processes to vet, validate and reward both original contributions and raw content mined from Twitter, YouTube and other sources. Partners bring their existing users into NewsiT communities, while attracting new users via the NewsiT platform. NewsiT scales by enabling self-propelling communities worldwide, monetized by targeted contextual advertising and sponsorship.

Who wins? Consumers - and the brands, businesses, media, affinity groups and others that want to reach them 24/7.

NewsiT is a distributed solution that scales across multiple verticals worldwide with two primary sources of revenue: 

Step 1 - Platform Licensing Fees: Media, brands, affinity groups, agencies and businesses license our technology (algorithms, business processes, consumer-facing mobile/tablet/web APIs and analytics) to get quality content, reduce costs, grow, retain and reward users, and open new revenue streams as consumers move mobile.

Step 2 – Sponsorship & Advertising: Partners bring their own pre-existing online networks and marketing to help NewsiT scale self-propelling communities aggregated by shared interest, creating a an efficient and effective market for sponsors and advertisers to target specific users cross-platform around valuable verticals.

NewsiT has the right team to deliver on a strong plan: CEO and founder Melinda Wittstock is a proven entrepreneur, results driver, social media expert and award-winning journalist. From the Times of London, BBC, CNBC to Capitol News Connection and NewsiT, she's driven traffic, revenue and ratings, built teams and businesses, sold licensing deals and advertising, and sweated many a payroll. Her team includes talented engineers across iOS, Ruby and Big Data, including CTO Craig Zingerline,and proven revenue drivers like Matt Prohaska, former SVP of Digital Advertising at AOL, who has sold or managed teams selling $2.5BN of advertising in 12 years. Advisers include Duncan Work, former Chief Scientist of LinkedIn, and Kevin Survance, former CTO of MapQuest.

NewsiT is on track to close licensing deals Q1 2013 worth $100,000 in the quarter – with a substantial pipeline of committed media, affinity and other customers.

Market trends heavily favor NewsiT prospects as social becomes ‘interest’ and ‘trust’ focused, and a $100BN annual US news advertising spend (and other vertical ad budgets addressed by NewsiT’s focus on consumer, health, small business, politics, environment, etc)– moves online/mobile. Mobile represents a $20BN+ opportunity in the US (KPCB). More than 107m Americans have smart-phones and 55m+ own tablets, with 25% getting news via mobile.

Consumers are migrating away from traditional media and creating their own content and relationships focused on what interests them. But much of this content is unreliable, irrelevant and repetitive and media, brands, and affinity groups lack efficient means to verify user-generated content made ubiquitous by social networks.  Media groups are unable to sustain quality or respond quickly to the mobile migration of consumers given cost pressures. NewsiT provides an ‘end-to-end’ integrated solution that enables partners to grow/retain users, cut costs and boost revenue.

No other company has found an automated and scalable way to create and validate user-generated content of trust and personal relevance in real time at low cost. NewsiT is differentiated from other user-generated sites (NowPublic, AllVoices, Newsvine, CNN iReport, Reddit), social curating platforms (Flipboard, Instapaper, Storify, Flud), aggregators (Feedly, Prismatic, Google News, Pulse) and destination sites, by being first to:

— Deploy pattern recognition, predictive, natural language and other algorithms to real-time validation of raw content and source reputation

— Incentivize and reward user posts via reputation scoring, rating, game layer & recognition

— Create network effects around content creation and systems for trusted reciprocal conversation

— Cut through ‘information overload’ to unearth nuggets of valuable information ‘gold’

NewsiT is raising $3mm in Series A. Proceeds will be used primarily for Go to Market Execution (hiring and support for key sales/BD, engagement and revenue generating personnel) and Platform Enhancement (‘Next Gen’ Algorithms & Processes, iPad and Android SDK, ongoing UX improvements and implementation of 'reputation scoring' systems).



Melinda Wittstock

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My grandmother told me I was 'disruptive' when at 5 I launched my first business. I'm an entrepreneur and award winning journalist who's driven traffic and revenue across TV, radio, print and web.