Case study: Citizenside (France)

The name of the publication and / or company

Citizenside

Established

2006

Web Address

citizenside.com

Form of the company

Ltd (SaRL)

Describe your site or business in few words.

“Citizenside’s goal is to create the largest online community of amateur and independent reporters where everyone can share their vision of the news by uploading photos and videos. It was launched in France in 2006 and has 70,000 members in 150 countries.

It works as a press wire of images and video with citizen journalists able to earn a 65% revenue share of content sold in the same country as the upload; 50% if content is sold in a different country. It is made up of a 15-strong team of business development, editorial and technical staff, now registered as a limited company with Agence France Press and IAM as shareholders.

The inspiration for the site came after the London Tube bombings when iconic images from witnesses such as Adam Stacey made the rounds on the international press after being posted to Wikinews and Moblog.co.uk “

Staff numbers

Who’s creating the content

Content creators, paid full-time

5

Content creators, paid revenue share 

Hundreds

Content creators, unpaid

10.0000-15.000

Are some of the content creators citizen contributors or interns?

“All are citizen content creators. There are 70,000 members with 10,000 to 15,000 aprox at any one time who will be classed as active, which means they have uploaded in the last month. Participation is way higher than Twitter but less than Facebook. Citizenside has reporters of the month, and the potential to become a trusted member, operating much like a freelance stringer, where content can be posted pre-moderation.

There are also interns invited to work with the five-strong editorial team who are charged with searching social networks for content and inviting people to join and share content. They contact content producers on sites such as Twitter, Flickr and YouTube inviting them to the site and to share their content.

The site’s main success has been in empowering citizens to earn money from their work. Like any social network, there is a long tail of activity among the users – a small group who are very active and then thousands who upload more rarely. The editorial team does a lot of work actively searching for images. “

How is your time divided between doing business and content?

The roles are divided. Of the directorial team, one member is responsible for finance and accounting. He is responsible for ensuring that Citizenside users get the highest possible price for their uploaded images and videos. Another speeds up the flow of information between individuals and the media, so that content uploaded on the site gets published in the news as quickly as possible. The International Coordinator is responsible for social networking and international business profile.

Business, marketing & sales, paid full-time

5 – two of the three founders are still in business development

Business, marketing & sales, paid half time

Undisclosed

Business, marketing & sales, revenue share

 

Technical and web development – 5 paid full-time.

 

How they make money

Revenue models and sustainability

 

Would you say your business model is sustainable?

“Yes. The challenge has come from the difficulty in securing content rights for something that has been widely shared already. Trying to maintain a rights’ control situation in a landscape without rights control is very difficult. It is impossible to run a limited supply of copyrighted piece of media on the internet. It is extremely important to have the right technical team and move extremely fast. It is essential to turn operations round really quickly with new functionality and integration with other networks. Victory will go to a newcomer who can work with Big Media but develop a product that is good enough to use for its own sake. “

How much is your yearly or monthly revenue?

Not disclosed.

Where does your revenue go?

Wages and technical support as well as business expansion and development

How much do you pay to your contributors?

It works as a press wire of images and video with citizen journalists able to earn a 65% revenue share of content sold in the same country as the upload; 50% if content is sold in a different country. Citizenside also offers direct sales to media outlets: exclusive video footage of the fashion guru John Galliano having a racist rant was sold to The Sun in 2011 earning the citizen reporter a substantial sum (enough for an Audi).

What about profit?

Expansion.

Do you see your publication as your main product?

Yes.

What would be the most important thing on your road to sustainability?

“People upload as a matter of course – most people are not motivated by money and we hadn’t realised that at first. The site had been set up as business to create uploading options with a commercial angle but people don’t care about money mainly. The viral Twitpic content of the Hudson River plane crash proves that: he didn’t want money it was the ‘holy s**t’ moment that there was a plane in the river. And for most people it is not even to show the world what has happened: it is to show their friends. That deeply ties into the potential for profitability.

The business developers have put a lot of focus on motivation, feedback, loyalty and trust. To motivate the audience, Citizenside calls for witnesses with geo-targeting alerts, providing specifics about where news is occurring. There are points and levels of structure available, giving constant feedback to users including a reporter’s rank report and status points, which constantly gives people motivation to keep coming back, much like World of Warcraft social status building. Citizenside has reporters of the month, and the potential to become a trusted member, operating much like a freelance stringer, where content can be posted pre-moderation.

The introduction of game dynamics is a crucial part of the feedback circle. The process of participating and uploading is continually evolving and involves rewarding elements which improve the overall editorial quality of Citizenside as a product, such as commenting on images and uploads. This gives instant performance on how members are doing. Big brands like CNN and the BBC have huge news gathering outlets and tremendous capacity technically but they are slow to move and have not yet captured the right ways to motivate audiences. Major news brands have an advantage because they have brand recognition and platforms that are sophisticated but they don’t have the nimbleness of thinking or the speed and agility of a start-up. “