Next big thing: The ‘uberfication’ of crowdsourced news

Ken Doctor at Politico: “Get ready to hear a lot about the “uberfication” of user-generated content.

Yes, it’s a mouthful. But it’s also the next big thing. Fresco News, a two-year-old New York start-up, sees itself becoming a hot property as it cracks the code on local amateur content generation….Fresco News now enables local TV stations to assign, receive and quickly get on air and online lots of amateur-shot newsy videos in their metro area.

Its secret sauce: Uberizing the supply chain process from station assignment to Fresco “qualified” shooter to shooting smartphone video to uploading and optimizing its quality for quick delivery to consumers, online or on the air.

Meyer’s team of 40, which includes numerous part-timers, has assiduously worked through the many frictions. That’s one hallmark of successful Uberfication.

“We just did a tremendous amount of just non-stop testing,” he says. “I would say, even with simple things like user acquisition, which is a major part of our process and entering new markets. We’ve tested hundreds of different ad types, graphics that we’ve designed internally that effectively, and I would say cheaply, bring in prospective citizen journalists.”

Stations can assign easily. Would-be shooters can see assignments, geographically displayed, on a single screen. The upload works well and stations’ ability to quickly use the videos is a strong selling point. Fresco, then, handles the billing and payment processes, much as Uber does.

As with once-taxi rides, individual transaction amounts compute small. Shooters get $50 for each video used by a TV station or $20 for a still photo. Stations pay $75 for a video and $30 for a still. As a standalone business, Fresco News is a scale play.

It’s not a new idea.

UGC – or user-generated content – was supposed to be huge. The late ’90s notion: the Internet could make anyone and everyone a reporter, and make it easy for them to share their work widely and cheaply. Many newspaper chains bought into the idea, and tested it unevenly, hoping that UGC could provide what was, for awhile called, “local-local” content. Local-local meaning neighborhood plus, that kind of locally differentiating news coverage that publishers thought readers wanted, but coverage publishers believed cost too much if they had to pay professional reporters to do it.

Short story: It didn’t work for the chains. In part, the technology was immature. More importantly, it turns out that reporting – and writing – remains, even the Internet age, largely a professional skill. Publishers couldn’t find enough dependable local amateurs, and besides, they never really iterated a business model around the idea.

Then, there were the national start-up efforts. NowPublic, one memorable one partnered with the Associated Press, launched in 2005 …but never found traction. Today, several other companies ply the territory, with Storyful a standard of quality. Importantly, Storyful focuses on national and global content. Fresco News aims squarely at local – first across the 3,000-mile breadth of the U.S.

The dots tell the story

Take a look at the many dots on the Philly map above. Each blue dot represents an active, signed-up Fresco video shooter in the area. Each yellow dot shows current assignments. In this August visualization, visually, you get a sense of quickly and energetically local TV station Fox 29, WTXF, has deployed – and uses – Fresco earned “preferred” status at Fresco, has been around journalistic operations for a long time and looks forward to contributing news tips as Fresco might expand what its tech can do for local stations…(More)”