Guardian launches Citizen Journalism platform: Guardian Witness

Guardian Witness

Joanna Geary:

The GuardianWitness platform, and supporting iPhone and Android apps will help us to carry on this tradition. It will allow you to tell your story – by desktop or mobile – by submitting pictures, videos and text to journalists directly from an assignment.

It also has its own site, which allows you to submit and browse news, opinions and creations submitted to those assignments.

If your submission is picked up by a journalist it could go on to be featured across the Guardian – in print and online – which means you can help set the news agenda and become part of the Guardian’s award-winning journalism.

Guardian Witness is part of their Open Journalism initiative, of course, which is itself just a branded version of the idea of networked journalism.

But it does seem to offer a method of smoothing the journey from an isolated act of citizen journalism to that act being part of an orchestrated piece of journalism conducted by a journalist. Is it needed? Aren’t people more likely to contribute via their own social presences? I suspect that this experiment will tell us one way or another. 

Update: there’s an obligatory “tinkly music” app demo video that startups have made de rigeur

Update 2: Graham has a good point: 

Yes, this does feel very much like a 2006/2007 “come, create user generated content on our site” effort. But there are good people that I respect involved in this effort – I’d be interested to hear from them how this differs from that… 

Update 3: Graham has articulated this further on his own blog.

Update 4: And now we know the commercial relationship with EE at work, thanks to Joanna speaking at Shift 2013:


Update 5: Joanna has some interesting hints in her response:

  • Hmmm, no bio page, no way to link back to my social presence. No Creative Commons Attribution http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/uk No mention of you if your content is featured.
    Oh, and after a quick perusal of the Tall building assignment – pretty low on quality too.

    Prediction: Flop.

    • To be fair, this is it in launch state – more could be coming.

      We just don’t know yet.

      • definitely think they need to sort this, if they think “your chance to appear on the Guardian” is enough for the social public then they are acting like it’s 2006/07 – people need links and social kudos to make this worth their while now

        • yes, first on my backlog for upgrades would be attribution. Let’s see what they can bring…

          • The people I know on this team must know this stuff – I’m sure we’ll see more of it in the coming weeks.

          • Joanna suggests that there is more to come…

            https://twitter.com/GuardianJoanna/status/324113123172827137

          • graham

            “the integration into the production and journalistic process. This isn’t a bolt on”

            Isn’t there already a bolt on called Twitter? Sorry to harp on…

          • Worth harping on about – that’s the obvious challenge in making this fly. Mr Trippenbach suggested that the community aspect of the Guardian audience might be enough (https://twitter.com/trippenbach/status/324106696144343041) – but I suspect more is needed.

          • graham

            Is it really a community as Trippenbach puts it? How many people who read and access Guardian stuff, wherever they are, actively contribute to this community? Of those, how many provide real value? How many troll? Now, of that resulting ‘useful/active’ group, how many will actively contribute in the manner Witness requires for it to be of any real use to journalism? We’re getting into miniscule fractions here aren’t we, if we’re measuring ‘success’ of the project as genuinely useful journalism? In addition, how many GDN staff are gonna man the ‘dog and cat pics’ desk? Interns? Unpaid? If so, Private Eye are gonna love this story. And, finally, how many websavvy hacks, and I imagine the Graun is filled with those, are gonna go to Witness as a default for ‘contributions’ when Twitter et al are so ingrained into what many of them already do?

            I’d love to be convinced this will work, but I reckon it’ll be canned within one year.

          • The Guardian’s readership isn’t a community as such – it’s a latent community, one that can perhaps be activated through a platform such as Guardian Witness. Assignments will be crucial here. Well-constructed assignments can mobilize the multitude and raise the engagement level, leading to meaningful journalism (like in the MPs’ expenses app). The key here is designing rewarding assignments, i.e. game design. (see http://trippenbach.com/2011/11/22/why-game-dynamics-are-vital-for-networked-journalism/)

          • graham

            I agree Adders re: people working on this, which makes me all the more surprised that the project is a reality. Demotix is about the only network like this that “worked”, to a degree. No way can I imagine it ever became profitable before it was sold.

            I can remember from Scoopt the reality of these platforms – dog, goat, cat photos and people pissing about and very, very low quality submissions. Talk to anyone on the BBC UGC Hub to see what they get sent 95% of the time…

            As Digby says above, where’s the incentive? Am I really gonna flick my Guardian Witness app on when I happent o be at a newsworthy event? Or am I gonna want to share it with my mates on whatever platform I’m already on, and enjoying. It’s the Janis Krums instinct I suspect most folk will have.

          • Hi Nick, I’m the developer on the Witness website. We have only just launched and I’m sure there will be lots of work moving forwards but for now I might suggest you add your twitter handle to either the headline or description of your post for attribution.

          • Thanks Daniel – GREAT to hear and a very pragmatic work around.

        • jezturner

          `or like I said earlier, ‘I couldn’t see any details there of how payment works. I assume people login with their Paypal accounts? *ahem*’

          • Charles Knight

            Payment? – there is nothing at all in the T&C or any of the discussion about payment, you are doing this for free.

          • I suspect Jerome’s intent may have been satirical… 😉

          • Charles Knight

            Hah – opps, yes.

          • jezturner

            You’re right, 😉

        • It’s a shame Guardian don’t have televised news, because I imagine sticking a hashtag such as #BBCWitness / #Channel4Witness during live breaking news footage will attract the public to submit their own footage and videos in real-time. I think the “live” aspect would be more enticing to participate in too, to be part of a big news story as it happens would reduce the need for social validation.

      • Hi Adam, I was the UX architect on the project. We have quite a few ideas for the future, and we’re not ‘done’ yet. We’re keen to further explore feedback loops, along with other integrations into our profile platform to make things more seamless for users.

  • Guest

    It’s a shame Guardian don’t have televised news, because I imagine sticking a hashtag such as #BBCWitness / #Channel4Witness during live breaking news footage will attract the public to submit their own footage and videos in real-time. I think the “live” aspect will be more enticing to participate in too, to be part of a big news story as it happens would reduce the need for social validation.

  • dan barker

    I think they need to clean up their terms & conditions a little.

    The article makes a fuss of the fact that content submitters still ‘own the copyright’ of anything they post. In actual fact the Ts & Cs are very, very broad, and quite onerous. I wrote a little more here: http://p.barker.dj/guardiancopyright

    dan