Friday, November 26, 2004

OhMyNews, the new CNN International?

Thanks to the rapid adoption of blogs and distribution feeds, collaborative or participatory journalism has become THE hot topic among media students and press moguls. A few months ago I stumbled against OhMyNews while writing a presentation on that subject.

OhMyNews is South Korea’s leading online newspaper and attracts over 2 million readers. The difference between OhMyNews and your daily broadsheet is that the bulk of its content is written by amateur journalists. Police officers, housewives, university professors, hairdressers, students… everyone can register online and apply to become a reporter. Not surprisingly, the site’s motto is “Every citizen is a reporter”.

To date, it has more than 35,000 volunteers providing news articles. Their stories are vetted for accuracy by a team of editors before beeing published on the site. Each volunteer is paid a small amount according to a complex formula including newsworthiness, accuracy, placement and popularity.

What is fascinating about OhMyNews is that it encapsulates so well the new dynamics rocking the media industry:

- the Internet has removed publishing production and distribution barriers. That has been one of the big promises of the era, but it is finally happening. Theoretically, anyone with an interesting story and a well linked blog can have the same reach on some segment of the population than CNN or your daily paper. (I said “reach”, not “impact”… more on that in another post).
- new generation of Internet educated individuals don’t want to be passively fed news but are keen to interact, if just for commenting or having different view points on one story. Witness how blogs are keeping traditional media in check.
- A more cynical public is developing a growing distrust towards traditional media corporations and editorial agendas. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll in June 2003 revealed that only 36 percent of those polled believe the news media generally "get the facts straight”. I think that it is actually worst than that.

In the late 80s, CNN changed the face of news reporting with its specialised news segments and 24 hours live coverage. Until a few months ago, OhMyNews was only available in Korean. In May, an international version in English was launched: OhMyNews International.

Jean K. Min, the director of OhmyNews International has ambitious expansion plans and wants to tour media and universities in the world to discuss his model and areas of potential cooperation.

South Korea is often referred to as the “land of the morning calm”, or “the hermit kingdom”. With one of the highest broadband penetration in the world, it seems to be rather well connected for a hermit. With ventures like OhMyNews, it seems willing to disrupt old media’s sleep with a resonating bang. I wonder if OhMyNews could become the new CNN…

More on OhMyNews.

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