I recently had the pleasure of chatting to Amra Tareen, CEO and founder of the world’s largest citizen journalism platform, allvoices.com She is deeply committed to making sure all people have a voice and to shine a spotlight on those areas that can help the lives of others the most.
Amra commands 300,000 citizen journalists in over 160 countries and her site enjoys an amazing 5 million unique visitors a month. As the fastest growing media platform for citizen journalism in the world, allvoices.com is a model of how to engage individuals to contribute content, how to build a global community and how to leverage new technology tools to do meaningful work.
I hope you enjoy the interview and please fire away with any questions.
What was the purpose of allvoices.com?
AT: So allvoices.com, the platform itself, was launched in July of 2008, so we have grown tremendously in a year and a half. The reason why allvoices was founded was that the whole concept of mainstream media is having trouble right now in the US as you already know. You needed to get people and citizens and people involved in reporting news and opinion regardless of where their location was, and using all forms of media technologies including cell phones and PCs.
What was the concept behind it?
AT: The whole concept is that a user reports and our technology determines where it’s coming from, does keyword analysis similar to Google news, pulls out the keywords and entities and places that were mentioned and then we create context by going and looking on the web for mainstream news, for bloggers and any other user generated site like YouTube, to find what people are also saying about the same event or news item. Then we put it all together and instantly publish the user’s report, and also let anyone else contribute to that report to create an automatic newsroom, a collaborative environment of users creating news, sharing opinions, sharing content.
How do you use social media to generate so much traffic?
AT: How we get all this traffic is we optimize their content for search engines by using those keywords we extract in the URL and in the content and also do a lot of social media marketing to get more users. Then the allvoices community rates the content up or down and we use that in our ranking of users to see if we want to put it on a city landing page, a country landing page or global page.
How do citizen reporters participate?
AT: Whenever a user reports, they have their profile page, they have their report page and also their report is linked to a city so you can actually see what the citizens of that city are reporting. So we have all these automatic city pages of all the cities all over the world with population of 500. So we have all the cities pages and have users rate and rank content on these city pages, we aggregate similar content. It can move from a local city level to a country level to a global level, so we are actually creating a platform that does local news to global news to national news, all done by technology and community. So allvoices is a mixture of CNN eyewitness reporting as a seamless publishing platform, with Digg-like rating of content by citizens, and Google news for aggregation.
How do you optimize the local and global news for search?
AT: What we do is, we are bringing all different perspectives together all in one page, at a report level, at a country level, and at a city level, and we do that all algorithmically and using the community. It’s a very low-cost model of bottoms-up media for news and events around the world.
How does the wider global community participate?
AT: The platform is configured for both—for a user to create content and for other users to add to that content and to discuss the content through commenting. What we have seen is we have people from all over the world contributing. You can actually hear the discussions. It’s all about how we link content together. Our engine matches them together and makes suggestions about becoming a fan of this or that. We do that matching and when you put all these people together through content, they actually engage and share what’s going on where they are, and you can see that discussion happening.