Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Have citizen journalists demonetized the scoop?

If you deal in the currency of hand-wringing -- "Oh, woe is me, citizen journalism is stealing the mainstream media's business!" -- here is the other side of that coin.

The mainstream media are -- finally -- spending nary a dime on exclusives procured from citizen journalists.

Philip M. Stone, formerly of UPI and of Reuters, in Follow the Media:
[I]n the good old days when everyone didn’t have camera phones and a motorist happened to be passing with a camera and managed to shoot a few frames, a phone call to a Sigma or Magnum or even an international news agency could be worth big bucks. The photo agencies knew how to sell to magazine publishers exclusively in every country and would rake in the really big money with the photographer getting a split.

The unknowing photographer might sell the frames for a fixed price and no revenue share and that’s when the agency really made out like a bandit. Remember the Air France Concorde crash back in July, 2000 in Paris? A couple of East Europeans happened to be passing by in their car, had a 35mm camera, shot a few frames, and sold the roll to Reuters for a fixed price. The news agency put a couple of the frames on its international news pictures wire and the rest it started selling exclusively to magazines around the world. It did so well out of it that it actually paid the East Europeans more than it promised. Then a couple of days later the AP came upon, for a price, some video someone had shot and so the value of all the pictures came down, but for a couple of days at least Reuters did really well, not only financially but also with branding for everyone knew it had been the only agency with the crash pictures.

But it is doubtful anyone did financially well on that Turkish airliner crash [of February 25 in Amsterdam]. It was all up there on Twitter for the world to see instantly. No exclusivity and perhaps more important to the news organizations in these hard times, no payment.

Further, "the days of exclusives on breaking news may be near over, but it also means more than ever that an editor’s job is even more important." More Mr. Stone here.

Also see, Big media smells the salts, embraces citizen journalism

No comments: