“Citizen Journalist” site lands big financing deal

NowPublic Technologies Inc. calls itself the world’s largest participatory news network, with 100,000 non-professional contributing reporters from more than 140 countries and 3,600 cities,  and a partnership with Associated Press. Today, the company that began in a Vancouver garage received $10.6-million US in venture-capital financing. It says it aims to become the world’s biggest news agency.

Contributors can be paid, according to NowPublic’s web site, but serious questions for journalism remain outstanding: What will be the long-term effect of “citizen journalism” on “professional” journalism that serves the public interest?  Who ultimately will benefit?

An excerpt of the NowPublic statement:

In a short period of time, NowPublic.com has become one of the fastest growing news organizations in the world with contributors in over 140 countries and 3,600 cities.  By harnessing the wisdom of crowds and tapping into the news reporting potential of the hundreds of millions of Internet users, eye witnesses, bloggers and photography enthusiasts, NowPublic is changing the way news is produced and distributed.

NowPublic also reported today that it has surpassed 100,000 contributing reporters, making it by far the largest “citizen journalism” service in the world.  In addition, NowPublic announced that it’s expanding its landmark partnership with the Associated Press (AP) to include AP’s bureaus across the United States.  The AP is the world’s largest newsgathering organization with a staff of more than 4,000 employees located in more than 240 bureaus in 97 countries.  NowPublic.com and AP agreed in March to an innovative initiative designed to expand the world’s access to news as it happens.

These achievements serve to affirm NowPublic’s leadership position in the booming landscape of “crowd-sourced” participatory news, a category that NowPublic pioneered.  In fact, NowPublic is cited in Time Magazine’s recently released 50 Best Websites 2007 (“…nowhere are the merits of citizen journalism more apparent than at NowPublic.”).

An excerpt from a Globe and Mail story:

Co-founder and CEO Leonard Brody said in an interview that two major media entities expressed interest in buying the Vancouver company over the past couple of months, but he and his partners felt that they should remain independent.

“We got quite a bit of acquisition interest over the past month or two,” Mr. Brody said, from what the NowPublic CEO referred to only as “large media companies.” Both are based in countries outside of North America, he said.

“But we made a decision that we felt we could grow this thing, and that it was just too early [to be acquired],” Mr. Brody said. “We are big believers in what we are doing… and that is building the largest news agency in the world. We are laser-focused on that goal.”

A CBC story on the financing is here.