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Globalizing Local News From Mainstream to Citizen Journalists

Allvoices Talks News Alternative

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Allvoices is an online news destination that features a mix of aggregated professional news content and citizen-contributed reports, both from numerous channels. It’s been steadily growing in popularity. After a couple years of existence, the company tells WebProNews it’s getting over 4 million uniques and contributors from over 130 countries. I spoke with Allvoices CMO Aki Hashmi about what makes this site tick, as well as a new announcement it made today.

How it Works

When you hear that Allvoices uses an algorithm, thoughts of Demand Media may dance in your head, but where Demand Media CEO says flat out that it is not journalism, Allvoices is all about journalism.

Comparison between the two entities is not really fair anyway, because they are simply different animals. Whereas Demand’s algorithms help it determine the topics that it needs articles on, the Allvoices algorithm is more about piecing stories together, regardless of where they come from. Allvoices isn’t necessarily telling you what to write about. You’re reporting to Allvoices the news you have. If someone else contributes a different perspective on that news, the two (or however many exist) will be brought together to the same destination. That’s how it works in a nutshell. It’s actually more complex than that.

While Demand and Allvoices may be different animals, that’s not to say that there aren’t some similarities. For example, both have great potential for search. You can read about Demand’s process here. When a single report is pushed out under Allvoices’ model, five additional pages are created – for related news stories, images, blog posts, videos, and comments. It’s not about creating content based on what people are searching for, like Demand’s model, but there are multiple ways that readers may experience the content by way of search.

Aki Hashmi Talks Allvoices' mix of mainstream and citizen journalismThe Allvoices system takes citizen reports and news feeds from mainstream outlets, instantly determines when they come in, where they come from in the world, down to the city level, and categorizes them dynamically, whether that be politics, sports, entertainment, etc. If a city page doesn’t exist in the system, one will automatically be created. Hashmi says the system dynamically determines the validity of a news source as well.

That’s where the reputation system comes in. It looks at local sources that are coming from a country, Twitter feeds coming from that location, citizen reporters from that location, etc. The way the community interacts determines the credibility and level of trustworthiness of a story/reporter. Each citizen report has a rating that lets readers check the credibility level. There are basically three levels of contributors. Everybody starts out at the "stringer" level. Once they’ve met the criteria of credibility, they can become a "reporter." This means they have greater clout, and can eventually achieve "anchor" status, which will give them more influence on the community and a higher degree of trust. Things that are looked at to determine one’s status include number of articles per month, checking for copyright violation, reputation, level of activity, engagement factor, level of promotion (Allvoices provides tools to share content), popularity, etc.

Contributors can make money at any of the three levels, should they elect to join the incentive program. At the lowest level, they can get $2 per thousand views, and at the highest level, $4 per thousand views.

As far as spam checking goes, Hashmi says the algorithm looks for profanity and performs contextual analysis. There is a plenty of the human element invovled as well. Community managers will police content on top of the algorithm, and there is further checking at the top level. Users can also flag stories and comment on them.

The New Global News Desk

Now Allvoices has released a Global News Desk, or an assignment desk if you will, which gives citizens and reporters opportunities to work together. For example, a citizen could feed a journalist information for a particular story, and the journalists could take it from there and turn it into a full-fledged story. This News desk has launched in 30 cities around the world, and they expect to have that number of to 60 within the next month to month and a half. The idea, is that more parts of the world can be covered extensively than what is currently being covered by mainstream media outlets. "We see signals from the audience," says Hashmi. "They’re looking for alternative news sources and different perspectives – news they’re not typically seeing." Currently, cities that have appointed Global Desk citizen and professional journalists include:
 
- Baghdad, Iraq
- Beijing, China
- Beirut, Lebanon
- Cairo, Egypt
- Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Doha, Qatar
- Dubai, UAE
- Islamabad, Pakistan
- Johannesburg, South Africa
- Kolkata, India
- London, UK
- Manila, Philippines
- Nairobi, Kenya
- Shanghai, China
- Yerevan, Armenia

As well as cities in:
 
- Canada
- Iran
- Israel
- Nigeria
- Palestinian Territories
- Turk and Caicos Island
- USA

"What’s interesting about us is unlike traditional media sites, we don’t promote reporters," says Hashmi. While traditional media will promote their reporters and the actual coverage, Allvoices places greater emphasis on the stories themselves, bringing in multiple perspectives to a single destination. Assuming it works like it’s supposed to (frankly I don’t have enough experience with Allvoices to give it an evaluation in that regard), it’s a pretty novel idea for helping readers wade through bias and get a more well-rounded picture of any particular topic.

While Allvoices considers itself a destination site for news, Hashmi tells me mainstream media outlets often find content through the site and request to syndicate it themselves.

Globalizing Local News From Mainstream to Citizen Journalists
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