Citizens or Users or Both?

The difference between citizen journalism and user-generated content may strike some as semantic. But journalism aspires to more dedicated and disciplined coverage and requires more economic support than ad-hoc self-expression. Five essays by Poynter analyst-turned-entrepreneur Steve Outing provide hints about how citizen journalism will pay the bills.

Some of the business insights include:
— If you are building a community around information be prepared to sell your own site. Do not expect contextual or behavioral adwords to provide much more than incidental support. Outing offers this example from Backfence, a venture-backed citizen journalism startup in Virginia:

A lucrative revenue source has turned out to be Backfence’s business directory. Text listings in the directory (basically an online Yellow Pages for a community) are free, but only include the name of the business, address and phone number. For $120 a year, an extended listing gets a business a description, a link to its Web site and a logo. Display ads that the business purchases on Backfence can click through to the business-directory listing.”

— Be realistic: a citizen journalism site could be a good part-time income but is unlikely to be much more. In one essay Outing refers to a local Web news site in Northern California’s San Mateo County that pulled in about $2,000 as a part-time effort, and suggests “the revenue potential for a citJ Web site in a small community (like this) is around $4,000 a month.”

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