Startup To Broker Cellphone Pix

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It was just a matter of time until “citizen journalism” yielded an entrepreneurial venture like Scoopt, a Glasgow, Scotland-based startup.

The self-proclaimed “media agency” acts as an online middleman, connecting cellphone-camera–equipped average Joes with news outlets hungry for exclusive, eyewitness pictures.

“Camera phones are ubiquitous now, and it effectively gives us global coverage,” says founder Kyle McRae, a journalist and technology writer. But ordinary people don’t know how to get their goods in the hands of photo editors. So, the pitch goes, turn them over to Scoopt.

McRae dreamed up the business last spring and planned to unveil it July 7, but, that morning, four suicide bombers attacked London’s transportation system. Scoopt rescheduled its launch for July 21, but its debut was again foiled by attempted attacks that day. Now McRae plans to launch early this week.

But sellers, beware. Scoopt has reams of terms and conditions. The cellphone photographer must agree to give Scoopt a three-month exclusive window to market it. During that period, the user cannot publish the photo anywhere—not even a personal blog. After the 90-day window expires, Scoopt will continue to peddle the picture, but the licensing is returned to the photographer. Any profits—McRae estimates photos could fetch anywhere from a few pounds to £10,000—will be split 50-50. Scoopt will eventually expand to cellphone video, too.

In “soft launch” since early July (http://www.scoopt.com/), the company has several hundred members from 21 countries. Several blogs have taken notice. The exclusivity is “quite a commitment to make to a new player,” notes Ari Sloggin, of citizen-journalism blog Citizen Paine. “Scoopt also might want to consider giving contributors some alternatives.”

McRae is already tweaking the business plan. Scoopt initially asked for six months of exclusivity on photos, but last week, the company retreated to a three-month period. After all, a picture is worth at least 90 days.

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