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Blottr wants to reinvent news

Interview CEO Adam Baker talks up collaborative reporting by journalists and readers
Thu May 17 2012, 11:45

NEWS REPORTING might never be the same. "I think we've tapped into the fact that millions of people on the street have the technology to be able to capture and record news instantly," says Adam Baker, founder and CEO of Blottr.

"And that level of scale... when you do that it becomes very disruptive and could put us into pole position as the breaking news service."

abBlottr is an attempt to reinvent news as true "citizen journalism". The user-generated news service publishes stories, whether written, photographed, or videorecorded by anyone on the spot who's willing to contribute. What makes Blottr different from the average social network filled with user-generated content is the effort the web site puts into ensuring that the stories it publishes are true. A lot of this effort has to do with assessing the reputation of the poster - identity and authentication are of key importance to the web site's operation.

Like so many web sites and technologies, Blottr was the result of its creator's frustration. Throughout his 12 years online Baker, a serial entrepreneur, has been a heavy consumer of news - but an increasingly discontented one.

"I got very disillusioned with lots of editorial teams being laid off," he says. Besides that, "A newspaper now - the main headline is late, not exclusive, I heard it yesterday - or it's repeated across every broadsheet." And there are paywalls, which, "I fundamentally disagree with and they're frustrating".

Then, three years ago, he saw a documentary using footage captured at the scene on 9/11. "It was raw and really engaging. Ten years ago, when it happened, even though I was watching it unfold live and it was emotional, I can't remember feeling the way I did three years ago watching actual citizens and what they went through. It got me thinking there has to be a better way, because it's real."

As of February, Baker estimated the 18-month-old web site had 3,500 to 4,000 contributors and more than 2 million visitors a month and was close to breaking even. In its short history, Blottr has even scored some scoops.

"The hacktivist campaigns - Anonymous and Lulzsec - we get a lot of that stuff really early and often exclusively. We're becoming a platform - though we don't necessarily want to be a platform for campaigners - for people pushing certain campaigns to get their name and words out there. Occupy, for example, was hugely popular for us. We had people from all over the country and in Chicago and New York reporting live from their tents. It was awesome, and because it was from people actually at Occupy no one else has the footage or coverage that we have."


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