YouNewsTV, the service that allows would-be citizen journalists to post video on station Websites, recently hit a milestone: WLNE Providence is its 50th station partner.
In 38 markets around the country, YouNews, which Broadcast Interactive Media (BIM) launched in March, is giving stations another route to drive traffic, get the community involved in newsgathering, and better cover the local market.
"We've got 31 counties to cover, and this helps us expand our coverage," says Mike Scott, president and general manager of KYTV and KSPR in Springfield, Mo. "The more content we put out, the better."
The media world is increasingly looking to tap everyday folks armed with cellphone cameras who happen to witness news events, from wildfires to a Hummer stuck in a pothole. CNN has I-Report, MSNBC has FirstPerson, and stations have either been creating their own user-generated platforms or signing on with YouNews. Its affiliate range stretches coast to coast, from KOMO Seattle to WLNE Providence, and also includes Journal's WTMJ Milwaukee and Hubbard's KOB Albuquerque.
BIM provides Web services for broadcasters, similar to Internet Broadcasting and WorldNow, and shops the YouNews application to stations to be the exclusive partner in their market. Partner stations pay a license fee that averages around $2,000 a month, including a share of revenue; BIM typically sells national ads and stations sell local. BIM President/CEO Timur Yarnall says all footage is "humanly reviewed" for offensive or copyrighted material, either by BIM or station personnel.
While YouNews is not affiliated with YouTube, both are based on people posting homemade video. But Yarnall says YouTube can keep the clips of skateboarding schnauzers. "We're not looking for karaoke video," he says.
That's not to say stations aren't using YouNews for softer community-oriented content. When WINK Fort Myers launched it in October, the station offered a "Cutest Pet" contest to entice users to register. A pet supply store sponsored the contest and offered a gift certificate to the winner. Promoting it on air and online, WINK received some 500 submissions.
Meanwhile, Peoria's WEEK saw a 96% page view surge in November over October after a YouNews "Sights of the Season" promotion. "It's been a revenue success and a huge driver of traffic for us," says WEEK President/General Manager Mark DeSantis. "It's been an amazingly positive relationship."
Stations are every bit as interested in culling hard news from YouNews. When tornadoes struck Missouri this month, Scott says video clips showing the twisters streamed in from viewers; several are visible on www.ky3.com. WINK received footage of a recent Florida cold snap (clips of frozen fountains and trees made it on-air) and a boat that burst into flames.
"We were able to get the scoop on the boat fire [thanks to the user video]," says WINK executive online producer Nick Fokianos. "We were the only news station with video."
Indeed, Yarnall says YouNews vastly extends a station's reach. He mentions the 3,000 registered contributors at Granite station WKBW Buffalo: "They basically have 3,000 stringers," he says.
Not that YouNews is free of hiccups. Video is often shaky and blurry—earmarks of amateur material. Station managers say the large majority of submissions, perhaps 90%, are digital photos, as opposed to video, though that will change as technology advances.
And presumably it's only a matter of time before contributors start demanding remuneration when their clip of the Brinks truck losing its cargo leads off the 5 p.m. newscast. Yarnall is considering payment models, but says money doesn't seem to be contributors' primary motivation: "It's people who are passionate about the news."
BIM will launch a content exchange in the coming weeks that will help stations share video with each other, and Yarnall is toying with the idea of developing programming around user-generated content—perhaps a special showing YouNews' greatest hits.
Stations are eager for the next step. Fokianos, who's seen a 10% bump in traffic on winknews.com since adding YouNews, is a satisfied customer: "It's really a useful tool for newsgathering."