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Home » Focus, Headline

Discovering DEMOTIX

Submitted by on December 19, 2011 – 11:54No Comment

There is no doubt that the inter­net has taken over our lives. For the major­ity of peo­ple liv­ing in the most devel­oped coun­tries, it is unthink­able to live with­out reg­u­lar access to Emails, social media and news. Espe­cially the news sec­tor is expand­ing rapidly, with more and more online news por­tals appear­ing out of nowhere.

In order to take root in the dig­i­tal world, it is advis­able to start early enough to attract as many fol­low­ers as pos­si­ble, but also late enough to learn from mis­takes made by oth­ers. The founders of Demotix seem to have found the right tim­ing when they launched their web­site in July 2008. Since then, the London-based start-up com­pany has grown into a glob­ally renowned news plat­form for cit­i­zen jour­nal­ism (the kind of jour­nal­ism that, accord­ing to the out­come of the Young­Press Con­fer­ence in Antwerp, has the biggest poten­tial in the future).

Before dis­sem­i­nat­ing the com­po­nents that make Demotix suc­cess­ful, let’s start by ana­lyz­ing the state of play of the media sec­tor in the coun­try where Demotix is located: The United King­dom. As we know, the UK has a very exten­sive media land­scape. THE BBC is one of the world’s lead­ing news broad­cast­ers, and the British news­pa­per indus­try is so diverse, that dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories were cre­ated to char­ac­ter­ize them, most notably “qual­ity press” and “tabloids”. The power of the tabloids and the recent hack­ing scan­dals have, how­ever, cast a shadow on the whole British media indus­try. News con­sumers have become more sus­pi­cious as the influ­ence of the so-called “Mur­doch Empire” becomes clearer by the day.

The UK online news por­tals have not yet suf­fered from that neg­a­tive image. They are estab­lish­ing them­selves not only as a reli­able source of infor­ma­tion for cus­tomers, but also for TV News Broad­cast­ers. Demotix is one of the fore­run­ners, with about 5000 active con­trib­u­tors work­ing in 190 coun­tries, pitch­ing approx­i­mately 2000 sto­ries per month. Most of those con­trib­u­tors are pro­fes­sional or semi-professional jour­nal­ists who can’t find a job at a “con­ven­tional” media out­let. Giv­ing them a voice is one of the orig­i­nal ideas behind Demotix, accord­ing to founder Turi Munthe: I watched this mas­sive shrink in for­eign cor­re­spon­dents all around the world. 35.000 jour­nal­ists in the UK and the US lost their jobs. Only 4 US news­pa­pers have a for­eign desk. Even the most renowned news wire agen­cies like AP and Reuters fail to cover 40% of the world with a sin­gle staffer. So we asked our­selves: How can we build a plat­form to close that gap?”

The idea of includ­ing pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ists from the start not only pro­vided Demotix with the nec­es­sary qual­ity to pre­vail in the mar­ket, but also set them apart from other news por­tals or social media plat­forms such as Twit­ter, Face­book or YouTube, which orig­i­nally were designed to tar­get ordi­nary cit­i­zens. Evi­dently, exclud­ing the com­mon cit­i­zen was never an option for a news web­site which pro­motes itself as a plat­form for free speech.

Munthe: “ We are a news web­site gen­er­ated by the peo­ple for the peo­ple. We then take the best of that infor­ma­tion, those pho­tos and videos, and we sell them to the main­stream media. Peo­ple are able to upload their con­tent safely and, if nec­es­sary, anony­mously. We are like a street wire.”

The anonymity pro­vided by Demotix was a great asset to Iran­ian pro­tes­tors who took to the streets in June 2009 after the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. As all for­eign media was sanc­tioned by the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment, cit­i­zens uploaded their pic­tures not only on Twit­ter and Face­book, but also on Demotix. The pic­tures pro­vided by Demotix were used by vir­tu­ally every main­stream media outlet.

The response we have had from the very few main­stream media organ­i­sa­tions we have approached has been spec­tac­u­lar”, explains Munthe. “The ‘Daily Tele­graph’, the biggest news­pa­per in the UK, jumped on board imme­di­ately as soon as I told them about Demotix, they were our first part­ner. Le Monde is part­ner­ing with us and they have had a fan­tas­tic response from their cos­tumers. They want some­thing else, they want more.

Munthe also takes great pride in shar­ing not only videos and pho­tos, but also rev­enues: “Any money that we make from licens­ing the con­tent, pulled from the main­stream media organ­i­sa­tions, we split fifty-fifty with our con­trib­u­tors.” Thus, a vir­tual cir­cle is cre­ated, in which every par­tic­i­pant benefits.

But how does Demotix make sure that the pho­tos really express the real­ity and are not forged? Munthe: “Firstly, we are con­stantly in touch with our con­trib­u­tors whose images we want to sell. Qual­ity and accu­racy is our pri­or­ity. Sec­ondly, we are grow­ing, and we have fig­ured out that noth­ing mod­er­ates itself bet­ter than a com­mu­nity of users.”

Iason Athanasiadis, a free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher now based in Istan­bul, con­sid­ers Demotix a chance to set him­self apart from his col­leagues: “For me it’s great because Demotix gives me the oppor­tu­nity to make my voice heard. It gives me the oppor­tu­nity to get sto­ries that are not nec­es­sar­ily about pol­i­tics, geopol­i­tics or the econ­omy out to a large group of peo­ple. There is cer­tainly a mar­ket out there for those sto­ries.

Demotix is com­posed of a small team of no more than 10 mem­bers. Munthe has already rec­og­nized that the growth of Demotix demands a new out­look to the future: “We have started to real­ize that, on a mod­est level, we are becom­ing a pub­lisher in our own right. We are very eas­ily hit­ting over a mil­lion hits a month, which is not the goal we had in the begin­ning. Our aim was to broad­cast our reporters’ voices through the main­stream media. Now we are start­ing to broad­cast them on Demotix. What we’ll also be doing there is bring on more adver­tis­ing, of which the rev­enues will also be shared with the con­trib­u­tors.”

As a con­clu­sion, Demotix has cer­ti­fied itself as one of the estab­lished forces of the online news mar­ket. The chal­lenges of the cur­rent media land­scape are met by focus­ing solely on their inter­net work and not try­ing to open up a news­pa­per for­mat, invest­ing a lot of money into paper and print­ing as the Euro­pean Daily now does with­out get­ting much return. As we learned in Antwerp, online is the future of jour­nal­ism. Demotix has acknowl­edged this fact years ago. But it is easy for some­one like Paul Lewis, a keynote speaker in Antwerp who is a renowned jour­nal­ist at the Guardian, to pro­mote report­ing with Twit­ter, when he is lucky enough to be earn­ing a decent salary. Demotix has the objec­tive of not only pro­vid­ing pic­tures and videos, but also of reward­ing their con­trib­u­tors with a fair finan­cial share.

Related posts:

  1. Europe through the Twit­ter lens
  2. Euro­pean Coun­cil live on Twitter
  3. Medi­aS­torm: An inno­v­a­tive new media
  4. Live blog­ging a EU Coun­cil (Video)
  5. Help me investigate


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