NewZulu Canada fills a need with its photography crowdsourcing platform

Legal cases that have arisen over improper use of photos sourced from social media over the past few years have demonstrated a growing need for a better system for crowdsourcing citizen journalism.

Enter platforms like NewZulu — a crowdsourcing platform that recruits users to upload their photos of news events for potential sale to news outlets. NewZulu recently opened a Canadian office and established a partnership with the Canadian Press, an arrangement that both parties say paves the way for a better approach to crowdsourcing – one that will see citizen journalists paid and properly credited for their work.

Allendria Brunjes, senior editor with NewZulu Canada says that she and other Canadian staff have been building up the community of users since early August.

“The idea is that really we’re just helping news organizations with their content. We’re a crowdsourced news platform and we validate the content, make sure it’s authentic, that it actually happened and that the person who said that they took the photo actually did take that picture,” Brunjes told Story Board in a phone interview earlier this week.

Photographs are vetted for authenticity by staff journalists as well as through direct contact with contributing photographers on the scene at breaking news events.

A boon for amateurs

Brunjes says that the service has value for amateur photographers and students, who may not have professional networks in place to get their work published. NewZulu looks for users through social media, searching feeds to find people posting photographs of various events and inviting them to upload their shots to the platform. The company also held a meet-up in Toronto at the end of September to reach out to potential contributors.

“We’re helping them get their content as quickly as possible to these archives and into the eye of journalists who would then be choosing those photos to be published,” she said.

Brunjes says that professional photographers use NewZulu as well.

“It’s a really easy way to get content to partners. So by uploading into one place they can reach a number of different networks and it gets put there automatically. Our validators are working around the clock because they’re in different places in the world. Photos are validated within minutes and if there aren’t any problems they can get out to partners’ archives that quickly as well.”

What about professionals?

Brunjes doesn’t think the platform will have a negative impact on established freelance photographers – at least no more so than social media has already had.

“You’ve got Instagram, you’ve got Twitter, you’ve got all of these places where people are now going for their content. If I’m a freelance photographer based in Toronto, I’m not going to make it to Angus in time to catch a picture of the tornado that’s happening there. And that’s what a news organization might want to see,” she said.

“The goal isn’t to replace that which professional photographers can do, nor to replace freelance photography, but really to augment certain aspects where there are holes in the market.”

Jimmy Jeong, Chair of Freelance Photography for the News Photographers Association of Canada, agrees that crowdsourcing has a lot of value in certain situations.

“I think crowdsourcing is good for a lot of different avenues. In terms of what happens when a huge national and international story breaks in a small town where a lot of these media agencies don’t have freelancers already in those cities. So for Canadian Press it’s a good thing. When news breaks and it’s big enough, they need to be first on the wire. This is a platform that gives them a better chance to do that,” he said.

The bottom line

Crowdsourcing, says Jeong, is simply a fact of life now.

“People who are on the front lines with their cell phones will still get newsworthy photos, until maybe a professional freelancer can come into town and continue the story.”

With photographers earning 50% of the selling price, Jeong isn’t sure how many professionals will find the platform worth their while.

“Might be a great opportunity for amateur photographers. Pros already have established relationships. CP is an extremely loyal agency. So they’re not trying to push [freelancers] aside. Like other companies, they’re trying to stay afloat, they understand things are changing, they’re experimenting with this thing,” said Jeong.

“Hopefully they still realize that they already have a very talented pool and strong relationships with an established community. Yes, there are amateur photographers who are incredibly talented. But the freelance photographers that are part of NPAC, they’re professional, experienced photographers and hopefully they still get a fair shake,” he said.

Ultimately, Jeong says that whether photos are shot by professionals or amateurs, what counts is the bottom line.

“At least they’re paying photographers for their work.”

 

 

Posted on October 16, 2014 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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