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    Can Allvoices Succeed as Citizen Journalism Platform?

    by Mark Glaser
    September 10, 2009
    Allvoices CEO Amra Tareen sitting in her office in the One Sansome building in downtown San Francisco.

    With Examiner.com recently buying out citizen media site NowPublic for a reported $25 million, the attention turned to similar independent sites such as Allvoices. Would it now become buyout fodder for a mainstream media company, or would it suffer the fate of so many citizen journalism sites that came before it, shutting down before finding a successful business model?

    To find out more, I went with videographer Charlotte Buchen to visit the Allvoices headquarters in downtown San Francisco yesterday. The office space alone mirrors the heights (and lows) that shadow the startup. Up on the 15th floor of the tony One Sansome building, Allvoices has about 10 people stuffed into a conference room, with the CEO Amra Tareen having her own office across a cubicle farm that sits largely empty due to failed startups having vacated the premises.

    We want to showcase a user's work, as well as create context around that report by adding aggregated information." - Amra Tareen

    Allvoices received $4.5 million in funding in 2007, launched the site in 2008, and is now looking for another round of funding in a challenging climate. The site allows people around the world to submit stories, photos and video on what’s happening around them, and then uses computer algorithms and the community to filter that content and surround it with relevant stories aggregated from mainstream news sources. So a story about the recent hijacking of an Aeromexico flight includes links to a San Jose Mercury News story, other posts on Allvoices, related tweets on Twitter, and comments from the community.

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    The site’s traffic took off in early 2009, now averaging about 3 million unique visitors per month, according to Allvoices, with reports coming in from 167 countries (though 40% of visitors are from the U.S.). The site has an incentive program to pay contributors depending on their page views and fan loyalty, as well as a new syndication program that will compensate contributors for images or videos that are sold to media outlets.

    Can the site survive and thrive in a tough economic climate for online advertising? Or will it become an adjunct for a mainstream media company? I met the Allvoices team, including charismatic CEO Amra Tareen, and the following is my video report from that meetup.

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    What do you think about the chances for Allvoices being profitable or bought out? Can standalone citizen media sites survive? How? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Videography and photos by Charlotte Buchen.

    Tagged: allvoices business models citizen journalism startups syndication
    • alfred

      this site will get sold for 100 million before the end of 2010

    • rob

      i checked out their stats. they are growing fast. they seem to have better quality content than other cj sites. will be picked up by a traditional media company.

    • After watching the video, any big media co. that is lucky enough to buyout Allvoices would benefit greatly. Amra Tareen’s vision is solid & brilliant. It doesn’t seem like the likely buyout would be the worst thing for AllVoices. Their business model appears to be fixed enough that a buyout might actually help their legal dispute handling.

    • smoke

      Will Allvoices matter as citizen media? Short answer: No.

      The best hyperlocal bloggers are the ones who start their own blogs and set their own path.

      You really need to get in the weeds to see what’s happening on a hyperlocal level and it’s an eye opener.

      I really wish MediaShift would do more to focus on random hyperlocal bloggers and look how they are succeeding.

      The neighborhood, hyperlocal bloggers are building the future through hard and determined work and many have audiences that just love them.

    • In looking at the articles on the home page when I visited the site, it didn’t look like it was citizen reporting. It looks like analysis of things already reported. Is Allvoices doing more than taking a blogger’s perspective on the news and attaching to it the same news that the blogger used to develop his perspective? How is that journalism?

    • The “charismatic” CEO formerly worked in the investment world — VC’s I believe — and is well-connected there. So that gives them a better shot.

    • I hope it’s going work very well.

    • Nathan

      The problem, Mark, is that NowPublic did not get acquired for $25 million. It’s comical to watch sites parrot that single-sourced rumor without any verification. NP was sold at a loss after more than a year of trying to sell themselves. The investors did not make their money back and the founders got small earnouts to stay on board. End of story — and not a good one. NP is just the latest in a line of cit-j startups that lost investor capital and never achieved what they set out to achieve.

    • Mark — something is fishy with the allvoices numbers. They claim 3 million uniques and Alexa bears that out, as well as Google Trends, but none of the articles ever have more than 2,000 views. So, the numbers do just not add up. Is there some weird traffic boosting going on with ads? Not sure but this is a strange and non-believable number of you look at their own articles and track them throughout the month (and add them up). Might want to dig deeper into the numbers they claim.

    • I agree with Alfred… this is an investment pure and simple.

    • What about blog
      Blogs are intended to be self-serving, self-oriented reflection of self-oriented people. For years I didn’t care for it, didn’t read it and didn’t want any part of it. As time went by, I realized I couldn’t survive in this society if I didn’t focus on myself more, it’s a self-oriented society. So now, I too am blogging about whatever comes to my mind. I became self-centered and self-oriented and I’m using this blog as a way of shameless self- promotion just like everyone online is doing… I’ll try to keep my posts short and to the point and true to my own self-serving new habits, I don’t care if anyone reads it.

    • Frank

      Blogs are intended to be self-serving, self-oriented reflection of self-oriented people. For years I didn’t care for it, didn’t read it and didn’t want any part of it. As time went by, I realized I couldn’t survive in this society if I didn’t focus on myself more, it’s a self-oriented society. So now, I too am blogging about whatever comes to my mind. I became self-centered and self-oriented and I’m using this blog as a way of shameless self- promotion just like everyone online is doing… I’ll try to keep my posts short and to the point and true to my own self-serving new habits, I don’t care if anyone reads it.

    • I’ve posted on the site a few times. The site gets a little clunky sometimes, and users can have some pretty heated discussions via the comments. But overall I’ve found interesting stories posted there that weren’t on some of the mainstream news sites. Although they have to be taken with a grain of salt, as it’s a potential unreliable source.

    • Wow. Monetizing these sorts of concepts is difficult, but it WOULD be nice to get bought out. Kudos to them.

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