Paris-based French daily Le Parisien and its national arm Aujourd'hui have developed a user-generated section of their site, in conjunction with Citizenside, a citizen photo journalism agency that recently launched similar projects with the French branch of free daily Metro, and French radio station RTL.
The new site, You, invites readers to provide text, photo and video contributions, or to alert the community of a specific event. Items are immediately published on the site, but Le Parisien staff will check the authenticity of contributions (using Citizenside's technology) and then mark them as 'verified.'
A site that welcomes reader contributions could be useful to a news outlet firstly because it increases the volume of content available, at a low cost, and secondly because it encourages readers to become more engaged in the publication.
"Le Parisien and Aujourd'hui are historically very close to their readers because they are high quality investigative newspapers. We expect their new community website 'You' to help them keep their finger on the pulse of Paris, the surrounding region, and the whole country," Citizenside co-founder Matthieu Stefani said.
"The site is incredibly reactive, in that contributions go live immediately, making it a real-time source for news contributed by readers of Le Parisien and Aujourd'hui," Stefani added. "We are very excited about the implications of this new site, it sets the stage for a whole new experience in both news production and consumption."
Citizen journalism is limited in its usefulness by its lack of reliability, but professional checking and verification of the contributions gives them more validity to other readers as a source of news. Photos and videos are particularly useful because they require somebody on the scene (and the public is increasingly armed with cameras) and are in general relatively objective.
The MetroReporter site has committed to regularly publishing reader contributions, offering €70 for a photo that it publishes on the front page of its paper, €20-40 for a photo published inside the paper and €10 for one on metrofrance.com. A video published on metrofrance.com will earn the contributor €25. Within the first three days after the launch of the site earlier this month, Metro had already published several reader photos.