Picture? Perfect!

A picture may indeed be worth a thousand words. Or so it seems after reading an article by Poynter Online columnist Steve Outing writing on whether citizen journalists should be paid or otherwise compensated for submitting content to news sites.

I have written on this topic as well, and frankly not much appears to have changed on the print side of media. That is a few sites are starting to pay for text submissions but they’re the exceptions. But Outing’s November 14 piece entitled, “It’s almost time to pay up for citizen journalism,” reports on three sites that “gather the best of citizen news photography and then market it to traditional news organizations.” They are: Scoopt out of the U.K., and Spy Media and Cell Journalist, both based in the United States.

“So how’s this citizen-photo business going?” Outing asks rhetorically, adding. “It’s too soon to tell; all three companies mentioned above launched within the last few months. Nevertheless, I think their existence is a harbinger of things to come with citizens’ media.”

In hindsight it makes sense that news photos would be easier to sell than news accounts. Arriving on-scene with a camera is more valuable than bringing one’s insights or observations to bear on an event. When you grab a photo you bottle the event. Outing’s article makes me wonder if video services have also arisen or whether these photo-jobbers will simply get into that slice of the market?

As for writers, don’t despair of getting paid. As Outing reports, the South Korean citizen site, OhmyNews.com, pays $10 to $20 for submissions, and helps readers “tip” good writers. Citizen journalists in the U.S. and Europe should visit Creative Weblogging, a German startup that transplanted itself to Palo Alto, California, and recently got an undisclosed sum in venture capital backing to build a network of paid contributors. (I mentioned them once before.)

So the payment systems are coming, and while it’s difficult to imagine fortunes being made by citizen contributors, the principle is being established that if it’s worth publishing, it’s worth paying for.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media