Review: GetLocalNews pays Citizen Journalists

Amusing thing when you wake up to see Dan Gillmor’s saying that GetLocalNews is paying citizen journalists. So I gather my wits and sit down to review the facts presented.
Disclaimer: I do realize I’m on the Editorial Board of Greensboro101. All of the below is the opinion of myself solely. Make your own conclusions. No one is forcing you to adhere to mine. And whether or not I like it really shouldn’t matter. So on with the show.

DanGillmor
< GetLocalNews


Review
Web design:
Poorly done. Citizen journalism is supposed to complement or for some, take on MSM. In this age, you CANNOT do it with poor design. On a 800×600 resolution, and a 1024×760 resolution, the featured site BeneciaNews was ladened with ads all over. It was difficult to even find the articles. Screenshot here.
Payment to users:
Took forever to find this, so I’ll save the viewing public the trouble. See here. In case it changes, here is the screenshot. You get paid 50% of the ad revenues based on page views but here’s the catch. You don’t get your money until you hit $25. However, there is nary a word of this on the Terms of Service when you sign up. What does this mean? Reader contributions payment is not guaranteed and not covered under your contract. Meaning GLN could pull this at any time. (I do realize that I am not an attorney, but this is based on the crude knowledge of EULAs, TOSs, and AUPs that I’ve read). Backup of their current Terms of Service is here.
Community Publisher:
Thinking about creating your own community and getting paid for it?
1) You keep all revenues from Google Adsense, of which you must sign up for.
2) You split the revenues 50/50 with GLN that are not regional or national (I think that basically means local). Everything else is up to GLN.
Screenshot here. In the offchance that you thought you’re protected by the parent company, think again. GLN is only liable for $100 of the aggregate liability and nothing else. It’s all on the end Publisher. Screenshot here.
Synopsis
This is what I’m hoping to take on MSM? No wonder those in MSM are laughing at us bloggers. The transparency of GLN is very to the point. They want to be a parent advertising corporation in a pyramid structure. From their featured site, it is obvious that their goals are not for citizen journalists, but for advertisers.
Do they have a shot? I would say yes. It would take a lot of redesign work and getting a professional design team to do layout work on the general templates. As far as I could tell, the management team doesn’t have that kind of skill. By the way… the featured site (BeneciaNews) won an award for General Excellence by the Online News Association back in 2002. You be the judge.
For bloggers everywhere, I have to say that currently GLN, you do not do us justice. But then again, since when has my opinion ever counted.

  • Thanks for taking the time to critique our new system for paying citizen journalists. It’s great how the Internet creates this forum for constructive feedback that typically would come from expensive consultants.
    You said you think we “have a shot,” so we figure you saw some things you liked. We’re not sure what those were because your critique focused on the problems — we know we’re not perfect — and ignored what we think are the more significant positives:
    1) This one would have been easy for you to miss because the CNET article originally had an incorrect figure on the page views for our BeniciaNews.com site. It has since been corrected to say the site gets 500,000 page views a month. For a town of about 27,000, that bodes well for the potential traffic of the network.
    2) Our system can syndicate content to any or all of our 50,000-plus local and topical sites, so it creates a new kind of content distribution system completely unlike blogs. We don’t see ourselves competing with blogs. By all means people should start their own blogs, and then post selected content/articles including links back to their blogs on our network. The blogger generates traffic and if the content is popular, it could get syndicated, which both generates income for the blogger from us and traffic and inbound links to the blog. I don’t see how anyone is being taken advantage of here.
    Regarding your specific criticisms on design, payout amounts, and our goals:
    1) Design: We agree with your basic point, that the design needs a lot of work. In fact, that’s our primary focus right now. We hope to unveil a redesign soon. It was curious though that you’d say it was difficult to find the articles, as they fill the center column. In any case, design needs work; point well taken; we’re on it.
    2) Why pay contributors only when they have reached $25 in earnings? Why zero out their accounts after four quarters (this last question was raised on another blog)? Good questions. It costs a great deal to account for and generate small checks, so we had to set some limit. We can look into making the cut-off period longer. And remember we aggregate all the page views generated from all of an author’s content posted at any time anywhere in our network, so the citizen journalist is building a portfolio of work that generates income as long as anyone reads it. Does this system benefit regular authors more than the one-shot contributors? Yes, but we don’t think that’s a bad thing, as it’s good for us and good for our authors and readers.
    3) You say, “it is obvious that their goals are not for citizen journalists, but for advertisers.” This comment shows a lack of background about our track record. In many instances, we have put a premium on news content and reader-generated interactivity at the expense of advertising. Example: On our BeniciaNews.com site, we allow readers to post comments in our Yellow Pages about local businesses. We did this because we believe that consumers should be able to hold businesses accountable in a way that can be shared by the community. Another: Our classifieds are interactive, allowing prospective buyers to post questions and comments right there in the ad.
    I look foward to furthur comments, complaints and suggestions.
    Edgar Canon, CEO GetLocalNews.com

  • Thanks for taking the time to critique our new system for paying citizen journalists. It’s great how the Internet creates this forum for constructive feedback that typically would come from expensive consultants.
    You said you think we “have a shot,” so we figure you saw some things you liked. We’re not sure what those were because your critique focused on the problems — we know we’re not perfect — and ignored what we think are the more significant positives:
    1) This one would have been easy for you to miss because the CNET article originally had an incorrect figure on the page views for our BeniciaNews.com site. It has since been corrected to say the site gets 500,000 page views a month. For a town of about 27,000, that bodes well for the potential traffic of the network.
    2) Our system can syndicate content to any or all of our 50,000-plus local and topical sites, so it creates a new kind of content distribution system completely unlike blogs. We don’t see ourselves competing with blogs. By all means people should start their own blogs, and then post selected content/articles including links back to their blogs on our network. The blogger generates traffic and if the content is popular, it could get syndicated, which both generates income for the blogger from us and traffic and inbound links to the blog. I don’t see how anyone is being taken advantage of here.
    Regarding your specific criticisms on design, payout amounts, and our goals:
    1) Design: We agree with your basic point, that the design needs a lot of work. In fact, that’s our primary focus right now. We hope to unveil a redesign soon. It was curious though that you’d say it was difficult to find the articles, as they fill the center column. In any case, design needs work; point well taken; we’re on it.
    2) Why pay contributors only when they have reached $25 in earnings? Why zero out their accounts after four quarters (this last question was raised on another blog)? Good questions. It costs a great deal to account for and generate small checks, so we had to set some limit. We can look into making the cut-off period longer. And remember we aggregate all the page views generated from all of an author’s content posted at any time anywhere in our network, so the citizen journalist is building a portfolio of work that generates income as long as anyone reads it. Does this system benefit regular authors more than the one-shot contributors? Yes, but we don’t think that’s a bad thing, as it’s good for us and good for our authors and readers.
    3) You say, “it is obvious that their goals are not for citizen journalists, but for advertisers.” This comment shows a lack of background about our track record. In many instances, we have put a premium on news content and reader-generated interactivity at the expense of advertising. Example: On our BeniciaNews.com site, we allow readers to post comments in our Yellow Pages about local businesses. We did this because we believe that consumers should be able to hold businesses accountable in a way that can be shared by the community. Another: Our classifieds are interactive, allowing prospective buyers to post questions and comments right there in the ad.
    I look foward to furthur comments, complaints and suggestions.
    Edgar Canon, CEO GetLocalNews.com