This is part 2 of my interview with news business disrupter, Turi Munthe. Where we explore his enterprise’s use of new media. In part 1, we explored his views on the new way journalism is carried out, evolving and how @Demotix is contributing to the revolution by facilitating the propagation of, per Turi himself: “local stories by local people: Californians in San Francisco, Colombians in Bogota, Palestinians in Ramallah, Thais in Bangkok.”
Turi @Munthe is the founder and CEO of Demotix; a multiple-awardwinning open newswire. Demotix connects freelance reporters, photo journalists and video makers, as well as amateurs and activists, with the global media. Demotix was reportedly established to do two things: 1/ Promote freedom of speech, political participation and civil society 2/ Change the way news is sourced and reported.
How is Demotix using social media and networks today?
Demotix uses Facebook to engage with our community of contributors and share some of their success stories with the world.
We’ve just kicked off on Pinterest and Instagram because we realise we do stupid stuff and some of it is fun to share.
And we use Twitter for everything. Like everyone else in the news.
Demotix is known to make a heavy use of Twitter in communicating with its community. What are the main pros and cons of Twitter for Demotix?
Twitter serves every purpose for us.
We use it as a way of getting the news we produce out to a wider audience, we use it as a news source, we use it to talk to our reporters, we use it to manage our news gathering, and I use it personally as my key daily news feed. I get more than half of my daily news from Twitter today.
But a story for you to show you how important Twitter has become.
Back in February 2011, as the violence really hit Tahrir Square in Egypt, I got a DM from a reporter friend in Cairo telling me which entrances to the square were being attacked by pro-regimers. Again using DMs, we notified every one of our reporters on the ground. We were running a very rudimentary news desk on Direct Messages… And then I went to find the Twitter people at SXSW to ask them for a group DM function specifically for that purpose. Apparently, it’s on its way.
What’s the next most used social network for Demotix after Twitter?
Demotix itself, I suppose. We’re a community in our own right. 30,000+ people in the wings. And they talk to each other too.
It’s a known fact that it is increasingly harder for broadcasters to stay above water. How close do you think major news outlets are to finding a way around or along side citizen journalism?
There’s no way around it. And there’s no other way of telling the news today without working with it. Pro and Cit are hand in hand, as we’ve always said they needed to be. And the news is getting immeasurably better as a result.
How is Demotix perceived by major news outlets today?
The Telegraph (UK) described us as “Journalism for the 21st Century”, and TechCrunch says we’re “reinventing the newswire”. When I spoke at the National Union of Journalists in London, the prefaced my talk by showing a video of Rupert Murdoch busting the unions’ printing strike. It was at that same event I was told I was personally destroying journalism and someone called me a malevolent capitalist. I kinda liked the malevolent thing, though it’s the opposite of what I think. Demotix began precisely because I was interested in actively benevolent business. We come at the world with a very deliberate free speech agenda. And business is helping us spread that agenda globally.
Now that mobile has overtaken social, Internet 3.0, some call it the contextual web, is on its way. It is defined as the “internet of things” where “context aware technology” overtakes the social web in recording our surrounding environment, adding exabytes of data to the a priori data we readily share on social networks. Examples of this include the Qualcomm Gimbal context aware platform for iOS and Android. How do you think internet 3.0 might affect Demotix in particular and open newswires in general?
Anything that helps triangulate information, helps news.
Demotix verifies every image and video that hits our platform. We check the metadata it comes with, and our editors look out for quality. So we’re always on the look out for tools that can help us speed that process up.
Having said that, the fight for ‘truth’ isn’t a pitched battle, it’s a cat-n-mouser. Even with the best tech, you’re only ever one step ahead of disinformation.
In which ways have you seen the news gathering process evolve the most over the past 2 years? Which technology (or adoption thereof) / gadget do you think has had the most impact?
Twitter moved mainstream in the last two years.
In Iran, in June 2009, less than 0.2% of the population had an account – the news we subsequently got out of Twitter was by its nature partial, restricted and deeply politically engaged. Only the rich, educated and tech-savvy got to tell their stories.
Two years later, look at Twitter maps of the Arab Spring, and you’ll see they cover a gigantic spread – demographic, political and geographical. You had Islamists from Libya like you had liberals from Tunisia – and they were all talking.
What’s the latest feature added on the Demotix platform? What return / effect / impact do you expect out of it? What big plans for Demotix?
We’ve finally finished a complete redesign, focusing much more on the photography and ensuring it’s completely responsive (mobile views of Demotix are exploding). Our last design release happens later this week, after a year’s work. And we’ve finally released the Demotix app - iOS is out, and Android will be done by end of September.
We’re expecting far more uploads – especially from the developed world (US in particular) which is one of our big focus points this year – and a lot more views. In the last year alone, we’ve not only doubled sales and content, but also pageviews. We now carry advertising, and share 100% of it with our contributors.
Thank you Turi for taking the time to share the great adventure of putting the journalism industry on its head. I do believe that the form of journalism you’re advocating should be thought in schools. This not only contributes to a virtuous cycle of bettering the news and making more relevant, all the while teaching folks to looking at news objectively thus bettering their understanding of the world.
I wish you great success with your entry in the US Turi. Keep up the great work.
The @Demotix adventure can be followed and contributed at: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and instagram. Turi is reachable on Twitter at @munthe. Don’t miss their new website: demotix.com and iPhone app.