UK website claims 1,000 'citizen journalists'

Citizen journalism website Blottr began the latest phase of its UK roll last week when it launched in Cardiff and Leicester.

Further launches in Newcastle and Liverpool are also imminent following expansion into UK cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester this year.

Blottr now claims to have 60,000 registered users and at least 1,000 contributors.

For the first eight months after its launch in August 2010 Blottr focused solely on London, and its roll-out to other cities in the UK was funded by a £1m investment from Mark Pearson, founder of web-marketing outfit Markco (best known for

Blottr is the brainchild of web entrepreneur Adam Baker, who said he first had the idea of creating a citizen journalism website after the 11 September attacks in New York.

He sat on the idea until watching a documentary on the attacks last year that used previously unseen footage captured by those close to the scene.

Now, with most of the UK's newspaper publishers cutting staff he is confident that Blottr's brand of citizen journalism can fill the void.

'A lot of people are downsizing their teams, putting up pay walls… they're going backwards – and that ability to get to the scene is diminishing constantly,'Baker told Press Gazette.

Baker is an former digital products director at Northcliffe Media and helped set up its Local People network.

While he said he disagreed with the direction of that project, he said that the role gave him an insight into how publishers like Northcliffe approach their digital business – and he explained why he is unconcerned they could pinch his idea.

'They're so used to having paid journalists, they're petrified about the legalities,'he said. 'To just let the source publish the story, they would have kittens."

He continued: 'The people on the street, we trust them, we empower them. If you have any semblance of doubt that users will tell the truth or not then don't do it. That level of street journalism is massively disruptive to them."

Baker insisted that the entire Blottr operation is 'underpinned by news", and hebelieves that is 'where you get traction'andthat the website can be a 'disruptive force'among regional newspapers.

The company's main revenue generator is NewsPoint, a technology platform for publishers that allows their online users to contribute 'user-generated' news content to their websites in the style of Blottr.

In May the site claimed to have broken news of a bomb scare in central London hours before it was picked up by the mainstream media, and during the August riots it claimed to have been ahead of the pack in reporting that disorder had spread to Salford.

'They were catalysts for us,'said Baker. 'People realised that we break news early."

The company recently launched a new app which allows users to upload images and submit copy directly from the scene of an incident via a smart phone or tablet.

Contributors are not paid for their stories. According to Baker they include freelance journalists who have a story they can't get published elsewhere, a large number of student journalists looking to build up a portfolio, and ordinary people who 'just see stuff, capture it and report it".

The next phase of Blottr's expansion will see it launch in France and Germany.

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