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Yahoo and Reuters to Pay for User Generated Photos

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Have Camera Phone? Yahoo and Reuters Want You to Work for Their News Service – New York Times : An interesting article this morning in the New York Times about a joint effort on behalf of Reuters and Yahoo! to attempt to monetize Yahoo!’s large and constantly updated collection of user photos.

“Starting tomorrow, the photos and videos submitted will be placed throughout Reuters.com and Yahoo News, the most popular news Web site in the United States, according to comScore MediaMetrix. Reuters said that it would also start to distribute some of the submissions next year to the thousands of print, online and broadcast media outlets that subscribe to its news service. Reuters said it hoped to develop a service devoted entirely to user-submitted photographs and video.”

Which is very interesting and something that probably should happen.

A couple of thoughts though.

First off is that a news agency’s reputation is *everything*. This is a bold step on the part of Reuters. Even with experienced editors reviewing the images there certainly can be fraudulent photos submitted.

If you are a blog, or digg, or some other kind of user generated content service, people to a certain degree (or at least should to a certain degree) take what gets published with a grain of salt. After all anyone can write a blog and anyone can submit to digg. Certainly over time some bloggers build up reputations that can be as solid as a news agency, but in the end it’s the news agencies out there that have the most to lose when bad news gets out there.

“This is an imperfect process. Last summer, a blogger discovered that photos of the conflict in Lebanon by a freelance photographer working for Reuters had been digitally altered. Reuters stopped using the photographer and withdrew his work from its archive. The company is now trying to develop software that will help detect altered photographs.”

So it’s a big step for Reuters to make the jump from hiring known photographers (who can still cheat) to letting anyone in the world submit photos. I think this is good, I’m just surprised to see it under their name. I would have thought that even if they wanted to get into the user generated photo news business that they would create some kind of a subsidiary with all kinds of let the viewer beware labels or something.

It will be interesting to see how people respond the first time someone gets a doctored photo published as news on Reuters. Who knows, maybe nobody will care.

The thing with news though is that it breaks fast. We say this with the London bombings when photos of the bombings broke on Flickr before the major news outlets. And sometimes when it breaks fast you don’t have the time to do the due diligence with a photo. I wonder who will be the first person to get a goatse or a hidden image of Howard Stern in the background of a photo picked up by them.

So I think this is an interesting and bold idea by Reuters and Yahoo is probably the perfect company to match with this.

But here’s what I don’t like:

“Users will not be paid for images displayed on the Yahoo and Reuters sites. But people whose photos or videos are selected for distribution to Reuters clients will receive a payment. Mr. Ahearn said the company had not yet figured out how to structure those payments.”

So let’s see, I’m going to go out, capture news, create something of value, it’s going to be used by two for profit companies who will theoretically be making money off of me, and I get? Nothing. Or maybe something when they get around to figuring it out.

First off, if I’m an editorial photographer shooting for Reuters I’m going to be pissed. So now instead of using assigned freelance photos, Reuters can now just go to Flickr and get one for free? Ouch. The cost of images really is coming down. Second, you are going to miss out on the best of the non-Reuter’s freelance work out there because they are not going to bother submitting it to a site that doesn’t pay them a fair price for their images.

Yahoo! and Reuters should have an established pay schedule by which they will compensate photographers. Something like, “we’ll pay $250 minimum for every photo distributed in areas outside our online service,” would have been nice to see in the article.

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Thomas Hawk is a San Francisco based photographer and technology writer.
He publishes the web site Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection and is also
the Evangelist and CEO of the photo sharing site Zooomr.

Yahoo and Reuters to Pay for User Generated Photos
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