The traditional one-way vertical relationship from the mass media to the audience does not exist anymore. Indeed, the whole notion of audience does not exist anymore, as users are now taking an active role in the creating and distribution of media.
Trippenbach pointed out that this is a change in the perspective of the news media. The new medium of citizen media in fact is not the Internet, as it could be easy to think. The new medium in the renewed news landscape is the users themselves, he said.
This innovation implies that journalism has to rethink the relationship putting the users at the centre. "Our users are our community and our users are our biggest asset - this is the core of our business," Trippenbach said.
The creation of Citizenside, which is a network of citizen reporters active in many different countries, was inspired by UGC (user-generated content) photos during 2005 London underground bombings.
The underlying philosophy of Citizenside has something in common with the Wikipedia concept: everyone, everywhere, can go on the Citizenside website or download the app - for iPhone and Android - and submit photos and videos, adding a caption or a tag.
Anyone can also participate in commenting and interacting with the website community.
What users want from the Internet, the reason why they go on the Web instead of simply passively reading a newspaper, is that they expect something to do on a site - at the very least they want to share. They want to be active. The point is to ask them to do something they already do: via mobiles they send a huge number of text messages, and share pictures. Technology improves continuously and mobile devices are spreading at a very fast speed all over the world, including in developing countries.
However, it is difficult for users to interact without being motivated, Trippenbach said.
Motivation is a big issue indeed. Citizenside stimulates interaction by assigning tasks, challenge and participative investigations. For the U.S. Independence Day on July 4th, for example, the site launched a "What makes you proud?" challenge that asks users to submit pictures of what makes them proud to be American.
Beside motivation, feedback and trust are fundamental too. Users need feedback, Trippenbach stressed. If a user sends photos to the BBC for example, due to the vast amount of pictures and content the organisation receives, contributions are likely to disappear into a black hole: this is unrewarding for a user.
Trust is as well very important and it's linked to the other key factor in journalism: verification. As Trippenbach explained, Citizenside operates on a game dynamic in terms of trust and verification.
Users get points for their interaction, whenever they submit photos or videos or make comments or every time someone views their images. This creates a ranking of quantified trust levels, which give to the editorial team an idea of their trustworthiness and the degree of their commitment. In addition, different member levels encourage users to be involved in the community and create a reputation system.