Australian startup Newsmodo allows freelancers to name price for their reporting

After more than a decade-long career, Australian broadcast journalist Rakhal Ebeli realized his responsibilities had changed. He was no longer only chasing his own stories but also collecting those of others.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | April 2, 2013

“I was increasingly becoming a third-party broker, if you will, between people who had captured newsworthy content at scenes of stories and my colleagues back at work, who would effectively offer them money to buy that content,” Ebeli said. “I realized that this was the way things were going and that there needed to be a centralized location for newsworthy content online.”

Thus he created Newsmodo, which will make its formal international debut at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Europe conference in London, April 15-17. Ebeli described the platform, expected to go live mid-April, as a “one-stop shop” for media organizations and journalists to pitch and find freelance assignments throughout the world. With newsrooms’ resources dwindling, more publications are relying on freelance content — and more need a platform like Newsmodo, Ebeli said.

“They have less personnel on the ground and they have more and more news to cover and audiences have higher expectations,” Ebeli said. “They need to be nimble, they need to be agile and they need to be forward-thinking. That’s why they’re looking for platforms like Newsmodo.”

Ebeli said he began his work by constructing, the “little brother of Newsmodo,” back in 2011. But he later abandoned that site, which focused on citizen journalism.

“What we discovered is that newsrooms don’t have time to flip through files of potentially un-newsworthy material,” Ebeli said. “They want to work with experienced journalists. They want a high calibre of content. They want to know that the content is easily verified.

“We have raised the bar with Newsmodo,” he said.

Unlike, contributors must apply for access to Newsmodo, as Ebeli said he wants to ensure professional-quality work. However, aspiring journalists will not be excluded from the site. In fact, Newsmodo is collaborating with dozens of universities across Australia.

“We’re opening up new avenues to aspiring journalists looking to integrate into what’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a foothold in,” Ebeli said, later adding, “It’s a really exciting way of creating a new ecosystem for those students where they’re actually starting to work outside of the four walls of the classroom.”

Last month Newsmodo trialled a beta version of the site with a couple hundred contributors and representatives from 15 major publications, including Al JazeeraNews Limited and Fairfax Media. Photos and videos purchased during the several days of testing were subsequently featured in Australian broadcasts and in the Sydney Morning Herald, Ebeli said.

“After doing so, the indications from [news organizations] were very much that they weren’t able to acquire that content, those images, those stories through any other means,” he said. “In just a few days to trial the platform, it was a proof of concept to them that yes, they will use Newsmodo in the future.”

While he declined to provide the figure, Ebeli said “many thousands” of contributors have already signed up, and that number is growing rapidly. The platform is free for contributors, whose work will receive “significantly more than the half” cut it would get on other sites, Ebeli said, without specifying the amount.

Newsmodo sticks out among other similar sites, including DemotixScoopshoteByline and Elance, because it allows contributors to package their content, complete with text, photos and videos for use in multiple platforms, according to Ebeli. While only visuals were purchased during the beta test, he said he thinks the platform will be well-used for text as well.

Newsmodo is also unusual because of its assignment function, which allows freelance journalists throughout the world to respond to news organizations’ story needs. To ensure contributors’ work is compensated, editors pre-pay for pieces after journalists accept and are chosen for assignments. Contributors will also have the ability to name their own price for their work.

“We’re not just building this to make a news factory for news organizations to buy the cheapest thing in the world to cover their news,” Ebeli said. “We’re actually building this to look after journalists as well as to cater to newsrooms.”

Hear more about Newsmodo at Digital Media Europe 2013, which will take place in London from April 15-17.

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