Posted on July 2, 2008
Filed Under Web 2.0 Kool Aid |
I often receive emails that look to promote a startup or a product launch. Most are rarely worth writing about, let alone reading in the first place.
But congratulations are in order for “citizen journalism” blog network Instablogs for sending me what could be the most humorous promotional email of the year:
Dear Keyser Söze,
As you know, these are times of great change.
There is a powershift going on throughout the world.
Individual citizens are garnering more and more control over all aspects of their lives.
We at Instablogs noticed the trend years ago and put together Instablogs. The goal of which is to provide a voice for citizens throughout the world who usually are not heard by traditional media.
We have Citizen Journalists literally throughout the world, which provide news, pictures and videos. The network has over 25,000 registered members and gets more 3 million pageviews per month.
We post it on our site and create a forum where the news and opinions can be discussed. From our inception, growth has been steady. But we are always looking for ways to improve and expand the reach of the voices we serve.
On July 1st 2008 we officially launched Global Report - the first daily online video show with news done by our citizen journalist all over the world.
This show is available on various formats and also for mobile devices, including the iPhone.
The show is a work in progress but we invite you to check it out and let us know what you think.
Putting a daily show together of such magnitude has been an adventure in itself. We have writers sending us information putting their own lives at risk to get the truth out. We have literally put together a global news organization using tools which have to be available in even some of the world’s poorest countries.
All members of the Instablogs team which helped put this show together are available for interviews in case you would like to know more details.
We have also created a Press Section which is open to all journalists (including bloggers) where you can find more company info, pictures, and other notes of interest. We encourage you to use it for your research.
Thank you for your time.
Your valuable feedback and suggestions are welcome.
I’ve never been addressed as “Keyser Söze” before so that alone set off my “stupidity detector” and encouraged me to read the entire email.
As I read it, I felt honored to be invited by Instablogs to participate in the “powershift” that is currently taking place. Eager to get in on the action, I quickly browsed over to Instablogs to gain the control I’ve been searching for.
What was I greeted with?
First, headlines and links to stories from the mainstream media - including content from AP (I hope Instablogs has a license).
I became a little disappointed because I was expecting to be bombarded by breaking news sourced from citizen journalists all around the world. For a moment, I thought that it was all a cold-hearted scam.
But then I dug deeper and found those “Citizen Voices” I had been listening for:
- Bobett from New Orleans how she went from a size 18 to a size 8 in 2 years.
- Jason in Thailand some disturbing news: drug trafficking is a booming business in Thailand.
- Investment guru Lakshya Anand from Delhi that equity was the “quick and sure-shot means to instant riches up until 2008″ and that despite the volatility in the financial markets, “there could not be a better time to invest in equity” because the market “always bounces back.”
- Srinidhi to the fact that the American media (especially newspapers) “have some kind of a hatred towards India” and goes on to why the United States is “the world’s biggest trouble maker.”
After being educated by Instablogs’ citizen journalists on a wide range of topics, I was also pleased to find thought-provoking polls that forced me to answer tough questions “Is today’s youth too weak to handle glamordom?” The question was posted by Shimla, who I believe a distant relative of George W. Bush.
Finally, in need of some multimedia, I decided to make some popcorn and watch the of the Instablogs Global Report. Although it reminded me of my past interactions with Dell customer service, I found the content fascinating. From learning that sex workers in New Zealand have great working conditions to learning that Brazil has luxurious prisons equipped with plasma televisions, I couldn’t help but think that the Global Report might one day replace my daily viewing of CNN.
Finding myself exhausted by the intellectual stimulation that the traditional news media had never provided me with, I left Instablogs suddenly understanding the power of citizen journalism that had previously eluded me.
Okay, maybe not.
I had never heard of Instablogs but was not surprised to read that Duncan Riley called Instablogs a “fairly well-rounded portal covering a wide variety of topic areas” and found their “numbers” to be “fairly impressive.”
Others seem to be equally impressed. One person was so attracted to Instablogs that he bought into Instablogs CEO Ankit Maheshwari’s vision to “build an international news organization to rival CNN.” He claims that Instablogs is learning to “shoot bullet[s] around CNN.”
Frankly, if Instablogs is considered by anybody to be a legitimate effort at “citizen journalism” and was successful in raising a multi-million dollar funding round, “citizen journalism” might as well give up.
I’m not unrealistic and don’t expect that citizen journalists will initially produce polished products that rival those of the mainstream news media. But the quality of every single piece of citizen journalist content I found on Instablogs was sub-par.
One could, of course, claim that I’m being elitist. One might argue that it’s wrong to discourage individuals from attempting to report information they think is important, regardless of whether or not they have the skills reasonably required to do so.
But let’s be realistic: getting an “A for effort” doesn’t count for much in the real world. I want quality information from individuals who are skilled and knowledgeable and I want it presented in a format that is clear and professional.
Instablogs lacks quality information and quality presentation and while some might praise it for its efforts, perhaps it’s time that the citizen journalism “community” ask itself the following question: are we trying to stand out in the “special education” class or are we aiming to get into the “honors” class?
Right now, it appears that citizen journalists are happy riding the short yellow bus. Keyser Söze is not impressed.
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