Hong Eun Taek at Netsquared

Hong Eun Taek is the editor of OhMyNews – As Michael Rogers points out, everyone has studied it and no one has duplicated its success. He’s spent time in Iraq as a war correspondent, and as Washington reporter, and recently spent three months bicycling around the US reporting stories.

Euntaek begins by introducing us to a citizen journalist from Rapa Nui – Easter Island. She represents well the idea that every citizen is a reporter. Quoting OhMyNews founder Oh Yeon Ho, he says, “Journalists aren’t some exotic species – they’re everyone who seeks to take new developments, put them in writing and share them with others.”

The project was founded in February 2000 – since then, the number of reporters has grown from 727 to 42,000. Much of the growth has come around the South Korean general and presidential elections. Success has come from changing the flow of information of news – information comes from the audience, not just from professional newsmakers.

The web has the potential to be a comprehensive media platform, not just for text news, but for audio and video as well. Eun Taek shows a video of parliamentary violence and street protests in the 2004 elections and the presidential impeachement that preceded it. The video concludes with the phrase “full-fledged multimedia news in action”, an excellent summary of OhMyNews’s ambitions.

The editorial process of OhMyNews helps answer questions about credibility and factchecking. The 42,000 reporters create about 200 stories a day – these stories are read and edited by copy editors and come to the site. Other stories come from professional staff reporters and come through a more traditional plan. And there’s an intermingling of the food chain along the way.

The influence of OhMyNews has grown rapidly in the last few years, becoming the 6th most influential media outlet in Korea. It’s profitable, making most of it’s money from selling ads, but some from donations from readers. The project also makes money selling content to other newssites.

Can the OhMyNews model work globally? This is the next experiment – OhMyNews Japan is now under preparation, with support from Softbank. The launch is scheduled for August. And OhMyNews International offers the question of whether this can happen on a truly global stage. This is an experiment very much underway, and 1000 citizen reporters are participating from 86 countries – every three months, the site is doubling in the number of submissions and registered reporters.

Eun Taek reminds us that OhMyNews pays – $20 for a homepage story, $10 for an inner-page story. This is, perhaps, yet another reason for people to explore the model, and to think about building an OhMyNews for their own nations. This will help OhMyNews reach its goals – 100,000 citizen reporters and a thriving newswire that can compete with/complement AP, Reuters, AFP and others. The International Herald Tribune has already demonstrated that mainstream publications are interested in hosting OhMyNews content.

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3 Responses to Hong Eun Taek at Netsquared

  1. ivan says:

    OhMyNews seems pretty remarkable, but I’m not sure that it can really claim to be the first online newspaper with citizen journalists.

    Indymedias were started in dozens of cities in 1999 that did just that. Some of them (New York, for example) basically do the same thing that OMN does — accept stories online, print them in a weekly paper which then gets distributed. Indymedia is certainly much smaller in each individual city than OhMyNews (and doesn’t have deals with banks) but I don’t think OMN can claim pioneering citizen journalism quite so discretely. Even before Indymedia, after all, there were people blogging — Justin Hall, Rebecca Blood, etc.

    That doesn’t make OMN’s success any less remarkable, but I think it would be more useful to compare it to these other sources and see why they’ve succeeded (if you define exposure as success) more than others.

    The question isn’t whether citizen journalism can work on a global level — it already has — but how it can work more effectively.

  2. Mary says:

    Thanks for covering this conference so thoroughly. I wish you had been at We Media so I could have saved myself $800.

  3. Kate says:

    The idea also sounds something like On the Road with Charles Kerault, or maybe more like Blue Highways, a ride that “came equipped with power nothing and drove like what it was: a truck. Your basic plumber’s model.” With maybe a sharper and less anecdotal focus. People who are good at meeting people and good at representing them. Catching attention and building trust may be the hardest part.

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