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Citizen journalism website Helium.com secures $17m investment

October 30th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Citizen journalism

Citizen journalism site Helium.com has secured $17millon in funding. According to a press release from businesswire.com, the financial backing is from an international group of investors led by Signature Capital LLC.

“Heliums unique platforms put the power of citizen engagement behind media publications, enabling them to engage readers in a way that will help grow audiences and increase reader loyalty, said Bill Turner, principal of Signature Capital, in the release.

“With Helium.com, we are bringing our financial resources to further accelerate this growth in citizen journalism, and to support Heliums objectives towards providing solutions to newspapers at a time when budgets are shrinking and ad revenues are down.

The site currently has a community of over 150,000 writers covering subjects from politics to pets and sport to science. The website’s terms have recently been changed to promote higher quality content. The changes include allowing ‘starred writers’ to receive payment upfront for new articles.

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Innovations in Journalism – MediaGeeks

July 18th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Search

We give developers the opportunity to tell us journalists why we should sit up and pay attention to the sites and devices they are working on. So how about a search engine for the media? Welcome Mediageeks.org.

1) Who are you and what’s it all about?
I’m Howard Owens, I’ve been doing online media for 13 years and am a bit of a geek about it.

When I first started thinking about launching a site like [the journalism social network] WiredJournalists.com, I registered the domain MediaGeeks.org. I wanted to create a social network for media geeks just like me.

When Ryan Sholin and Zac Echola and I started talking about the concept that became WiredJournalists.com, they weren’t so sold on “media geeks,” so I had this domain sitting around … and I had been wanting to play with building niche/vertical search engines with Google. I launched my first vertical search engine for RVClub.com in 1998 (with the help of now defunct WaveShift), so this is a concept of long-standing interest.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?

Because it allows you to have a search filtered to just media/journalistic topics. Let’s say you’re curious about what media people say about coverage of Paris Hilton … well, a general Google search for ‘Paris Hilton and media’ won’t be fruitful, because of the gazzillion of non-media hits.This search filters out all the non-media sites, so you can get right to the heart of what media publications and media bloggers might be saying about PH and coverage of her.

That’s just an example, but it should point the way to how you can leverage a more filtered search of just media-related sites.

3) Is this it, or is there more to come?

It probably won’t get any more attention, except for adding more media sites as they came along. Google has upgraded the API for the Business Edition of its search product, but not the free version. I’m not sure I’ll have time to do any fancy programming to improve the search engine should those upgrades become available to the free version.

4) Why are you doing this?

Because I thought it would be useful to me (and it has been, though not as useful a I had hoped because even Google search doesn’t always work as well as it should), so I hoped it would be useful to others. Not many people use it, though – I’m not sure if that’s because it’s a bad idea, or a lack of publicity.

I suppose you could argue in a networked world, if it were a good idea, it would have caught on by now. But it’s free to me, essentially, so right now I see no reason to take it down. Maybe it will catch on yet.

5) What does it cost to use it?
It’s free.

6) How will you make it pay?
I don’t need to make it pay, but I would love it if people started using it and some of those Google ads got clicked on once in a while (all out of legitimate interest in the advertiser’s message, of course), and I got to make a little extra money each month. That would be great, but not required.

There is an aspect, too, of giving back to the community, which isn’t something you hear online journalists talk about much these days, but used to be a big concept of being a Netizen a decade ago or so. So, even while the site hasn’t caught on, it is at some level an attempt to give back for all the goodness I get from the web and the online media community.

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