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OhmyNews calls on readers for funding – a contributor reacts

July 9th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Citizen journalism

OhmyNews, the South Korean-led citizen journalism venture, is appealing to contributors and readers for money, according to an open letter from its publisher Oh Yeon-ho (via MediaGuardian.co.uk).

Last year OhmyNews was 700 million KRW in the red and halfway through 2009 was making a loss of 500 million, despite cutting salaries and 10 staff, the statement says.

In January the site ended its payment scheme for contributors to its international site.

The site has launched the ‘100,000 member club’ – a project asking individuals to donate 10,000 KRW (about £4.83) a month to fund OhmyNews.

It’s aiming to sign up 10,000 members by the end of the year and 100,000 by the end of three – special benefits will be on offer to members.

The move is partly a result of ideals:

“I am asking you to become part of a revolution. In the past, about 70 to 80 per cent of OhmyNews’ revenue came from corporate advertising and sponsorships. In contrast, contributions from readers only totalled five per cent of total revenue,” writes Yeon-ho in the letter.

“I have always believed that if we are truly a citizen participatory internet media than the contributions from readers should be at least half of the total revenue.

“OhmyNews has succeeded in creating a revolutionary model for news production and consumption, but only if we can also create a new revolutionary revenue model, then can we call ourselves a true citizen participatory new media.”

But perhaps, more significantly, a sign of the times:

“We are grateful for the remaining advertisers that have stayed with us. But we cannot continue to ask our advertisers for further support. And in contrast, we have not received a cent from the Lee Myung-bak government for central government advertising.”

Journalism.co.uk asked OhmyNews contributor, retired Australian journalist and editor of the ‘A Word A Day’ newsletter,  Eric Shackle whether he thought the club was viable:

“I don’t think any newspaper or website in the world could find 100,000 readers prepared to pay for its survival.

“Ever since the internet was invented, it’s been free. Today it offers an incredible range of services, including news, and it’s all free. People won’t pay for anything they can get for nothing.

“OhmyNews was an innovator in its field, and attracted millions of hits from a worldwide audience. It offered a wide selection of interesting stories from citizen reporters and experienced journalists who were not seeking large rewards. It had no competitors, but today it has many overseas rivals.

“I fear that in a few years few, if any, newspapers will be printed in ink-on-paper hard copy, which will be good for the environment.  Those that survive the economic meltdown will be wholly electronic, produced by far fewer journalists than are employed today. If they can’t make a profit, they will have to be run by independent not-for-profit trusts subsised if necessary by local authorities or national governments.

“We certainly need to be informed of important events, and responsible, well-paid, full-time journalists will always be needed to provide that information.”

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Government proposals could cause press to regress, says OhMyNews editor

Lee Han-ki, editor-in-chief of South Korea’s citizen journalism news organisation Oh My News, has said the proposed legislation to clampdown on online news in the country could stunt the ‘democratic development’ of the Korean press.

In an interview with the Guardian, Han-ki said the proposals are aimed at controlling public opinion of news media and repressing free speech.

Under the legislation proposed by newly-elected government leader Lee Myung-bak:

  • Internet companies would have to make their search algorithms public
  • Internet companies publishing news would be subject to the same regulation as media organisations
  • Forum users would have to register under their real names
  • The government would have the power to suspend publishing of articles found to be ‘fraudulent or slanderous’ for at least 30 days
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