You created a platform for video that was online that anyone could upload to?

Well, you would call it Youtube.

But suppose you created a platform for video that anyone could upload to that paid the creator for their work?

Well, you might call it Current.tv, and you would pay each submission $250 for their work…



Suppose you created a platform for uploading and publishing work that anyone could submit to, that would pay people fairly directly according the popularity of work, as tracked by the number of hits their submission received – and as a pure percentage of gross advertising revenue.

Suppose you created a platform in which people would not only submit and be paid completely fairly, in a completely transparent way – but also a place where those videos could become the starting point for an interactive dialogue –

In other words, when CBS News runs a story, that is the end of the story.

But suppose it was the beginning of the story instead – that those stories became the nexus of public discourse.

And suppose that platform was open to anyone and everyone who wanted to participate and contribute.

Would that be a ‘model for news in the 21st Century?’

I think so.

I think it is an interesting idea.

And so, in the spirit of ‘build it and they’ll come’, we have built it.


Will it work?

I dunno. But I think it might.

When Youtube started they only had 4 or 5 videos for months.

It’s like a newborn baby – it has a lot to learn and a fight to survive. And over time it will mature and change.

But it’s based on a sound idea –

A free marketplace for ideas

That the creators of content should receive the full benefit of their work entirely as a function of its popularity – hence, what it truly generates.

That news and public discourse are everyone’s business.

That ‘free press’ means ‘free press’.

Take a look.

Upload something.

Let us know what you think.

There’s lots of room for fine tuning, but now we begin.


17 responses to “CTZN.TV

  1. It will be interesting to see if the business model will succeed and actually become functional.

    Of course I feel the amount paid, at present, for stories is way too low. But I understand your financial position.

    You mention the amount of money a story would/could generate may be tied to the number of hits or views it gets. I’d suggest you refine that to include some sliding scale which also tracks whether the viewer stays for the whole story or stops watching after only a few seconds.

    These are all nice long form stories. Some of the subjects interested me initially until I saw the story. Presently, I don’t see this as being a site which will deliver day-of news to an interested party.

    It’s a good start though and I’ll be interested to see what happens with the site in the future as a stand alone offering unaffiliated with an existing news organization.

    I see some potential legal pitfalls, which might or might not be minor, concerning the showing of peoples faces. Especially young people or children. What is legal in one country is not in another. To cover those concerns means added work and expense which, again, leads me to believe the current price paid for a finished product is on the very low side.

    The current stories are well done and I have to wonder if your purchase price for the videos is “exclusive” or if the material can be re-purposed and resold by the creators.

  2. Thanks for the input and the ideas. The videos remain the property of the creator. The income is only a function of the ad revenue that the video generates. Syndication is another story entirely. I don’t think this is day of news, but rather more for in-depth and really as a locus for public discourse on important issues, done both in video and text.

    In any event, it is very very much a work in progress, but it is at least a start.

  3. all the best with this venture Michael – a couple of thoughts.

    As a producer looking for an audience why would I upload to CTZN rather than youtube? Both?

    Google have just introduced very sophisticated content specific embedded ad functionality. How will you ensure that the CTZN ads are relevant and effective?

  4. Good luck in the venture.

    I just read recently an article in the Denver Post about “ManiaTV”. They opened up as a place for users to post their own videos…a user content website. But now have found that it was almost impractical to try to manage it, or make money. There was simply too many average or below average clips taking up 20,000 web pages and lots of their bandwidth. Unmanageable. And not generating revenues enough to maintain the course.

    So they just announced a shift to celebrity talent driven and higher quality videos. Here is the link to the news article. It would be wise to guage successes and failures. You Tube is big, but even they do not make a lot of money…now. So they are moving to new “commercials” being shown “over” the video clips…transparancy ads I believe I read. Even You Tube is trying to figure out how to run their business end of things.

  5. Michael, I know that you have all the good intentions and I really hate to be the one who brings up the negatives, but dreams are good for the soul and reality can be cruel.

    In business school we learned to create “what if” hypothetical situations, we played devil’s advocate with our own ideas.

    The citizen’s site has real value, but not for what you or those who submit videos want to hear. Those clips have no commercial values whatsoever, there’s no way on earth that any broadcaster would put something like that on the air unless is for humor or it’s a very unique happening, like somebody stroke by lighting and caught on tape. The value for broadcaster is the story itself and I already saw a few that would be worth looking into. Your videos will give ideas where a broadcaster can estimate the value of the story and if it’s worthwhile will send a real crew to properly do the story. It will save them a great deal of time and money by reducing the location scouting and finding the right people for the story. Unfortunately there will be nothing for the makers of that video, unless they learn to do it right but not in the present format.

  6. A nearly year-old article from c-net. Focus on the buisness model. None of the stuff is on the air (not supposed to be), but the money is coming in.

    The entire article is at: http://news.com.com/Revver+puts+money+where+its+talent+is/2100-1026_3-6130354.html

    SANTA MONICA, Calif.–When it comes to profits, there’s no sharing in the video-sharing sector.

    Not enough, anyway, fumes Steven Starr, a former talent agent, Bob Marley devotee and now the impresario of Revver.com, the video-sharing site he co-founded in 2005.

    Indeed, Revver’s investment in video makers appears to be paying off. Only a month since the Web site moved out of beta, the company has begun to attract some of YouTube’s top clip producers, including the makers of “Lonelygirl15.”

    “It’s exciting to see people who posted on YouTube are now cross-posting on both YouTube and Revver,” said Miles Beckett, one of the cofounders of Lonelygirl15.

    The series of videos featuring a pretty 16-year-old girl living with fervently religious parents drew millions of YouTube fans last spring. Then the whole thing was discovered to be a hoax. The uproar was covered by such mainstream media outlets as The New York Times and CNN.

    Since then, Lonelygirl15, played by 19-year-old actress Jessica Rose, is bigger than ever. The videos are among YouTube and Revver’s most watched clips nearly every day. The move to Revver has meant that the small troupe of actors and producers has started to earn some cash.

    “Most of the top user-generated sites are finding that if they don’t compensate their content creators then they’re going to lose them,” Beckett said.

    “Anybody who tells you that we can’t make money by sharing revenue with the creator is either naive or interested in keeping all of the gravy,” Starr said. “What was proved by the YouTube sale is that creativity can be aggregated and sold for very large sums of money.”

  7. Jim, maybe I misunderstood the purpose of CTZN.TV I was under the impression that it was going to be a news site, sort of a clearing house where VJs and CJs can display and offer their works.

    Revver is more on the entertaining side and I can see them getting hits. Some of those clips are done by professional production companies, but a toilet story in England or a UFO viewing deck in Colorado? I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

  8. I was pointing out that the model for making the $$ was similar.

    Revver started out with junk, just like youtube did.

    I was trying to highlight the lonelygirl15 thing, where the guys making the little clips were actually making money.

    One of the co-creators was a doctor in residency, so he had other options. Another article I read on those guys said that they were pulling in $10k a month just in ads on their site. That was a while ago, so I have no idea how they are doing now that lonelygirl15 is a serial program.

    I just noticed on ctzn.tv, that there will be an editorial component – that is, that work will have to be submitted and approved before a contributor will be able to upload directly (correct me if I’m wrong).

    As far as breaking news goes, I’m not experienced enough to say. I just did a story on the record heat wave in Birmingham Alabama. The heat wave just ended yesterday, so my story (ready tonight) will be relatively current, but a rich repository of videos might not necessarily be rich in breaking news. Maybe Mr. Rosenblum can comment on that aspect.

  9. no, it’s DEFINITELY you, nino.

    do you ever have a decent word of encouragement for anyone?

    you remind me of that debbie downer skit on snl.

    btw- check out mauitoday.tv everyone. it’s a rather new launch by a RADIO group. nice video editing too.

  10. Jim, copycats in this business have no life, this has been proven over and over. The Blair Witch Projects, big success, but hundreds if not thousands of copycats failures, even the original maker failed on a sequel. El Mariachi, same thing, hundreds tried and hundreds failed. Originality is what creates successes; the second try is no longer original. The lonelygirl is an original idea and be certain that there are hundreds of copycats going nowhere fast. In this business modeling a new venture after another success has very little chance of surviving, failures far outnumber successes. Smart business people do not study what make a product a success, they already know that, they study what made similar product fail, once you eliminate the reason of failures success is much easier.

    You did a story on a heat wave? Have you any ideas of how many stories have been made on the same subject in the last month ? I worked on two stories for ESPN alone plus we are still working on a feature on how heat affects athletic performance. Unless you are a fully certified expert on the subject and have something more to say that hasn’t been said before, why on earth would someone waste his time on CTZN.TV to see another heat story made by an amateur? Do you really care about the site’s success? Then look for unusual stories, this is what Michael should do. Every clip posted there is and old story that has been told over and over before, but much better of course. The only story of interest is the blind soccer team, but what a waste of photographic and human interest opportunities in that video. Actually the toilets could be a very funny piece in the right hands, especially with some Brits humor.

    Michael is also very confusing, is it Citizen Journalist or Video Journalist.

    “About CitizeNews
    Our mission is to aggregate the work of talented video journalists of great diversity and distinction whose work is characterized by a powerful individual vision. We are constructing a digital platform where video journalists chronicle the world as they work to interpret its peoples, issues, events and personalities.”

    VJ supposedly is trained and CJ is not, and he is mixing the two already.

  11. “no, it’s DEFINITELY you, nino.
    do you ever have a decent word of encouragement for anyone?

    Invent…. One day when your brain will finally engage and you’ll understand that encouragement is good for Sunday services and elementary school students; in business encouragement is worthless while criticisms is priceless.

  12. …in business encouragement is worthless while criticisms is priceless.

    What a load of crap Nino.

    You honestly expect people to look to you as an expert? I think not with a cynical attitude like that.

    I didn’t think I could lose any more respect for you – guess I was incorrect on that assessment.

    Thinking outside the box is an uncomfortable place for you based upon what I have read in your numerous posts. The only thing I see you bring to this community is your elitism and negativity – go back to the b-roll forums where others like yourself can propagate your narrow world view together and let others come here in a spirit of positive community and encouragement – as opposed to your negativity and criticism which YOU espouse as being so priceless.

  13. Cliff Etzel // Aug 27th 2007 at 6:43 pm

    …in business encouragement is worthless while criticisms is priceless.

    What a load of crap Nino.

    Cliff, if you are so anxious about finding a load of crap just look at your work and your resume, that should keep you busy for awhile.

  14. For the record: Nino has always been helpful and encouraging to me in public and in emails.

    CTZN is more like Rhapsody or iTunes, where everything is available. You can search for what you like, click on tags that interest you or see other work by the same artist (the web guy tells me that those features that aren’t there yet will be). You can see what is new or what is popular.

    If you don’t like what you find, click on the next thing and it comes up instantly. Try doing that with your TV remote or your DVD collection. The tags on ctzn will lead you to other stories that you might like – maybe one you wouldn’t have clicked on otherwise.

    Before iTunes, you could listen to the radio (linear), or buy CD’s (or any other form of physical media) one chunk at a time – if you want the next U2 song, you’d have to go buy the album. You can’t even get that resolution with all the news channels.

    As far as copycat projects go, we could name thousands of successes. Here are some winners that spawned successful knock-offs: Blockbuster, McDonalds, Jiffy-Lube, CNN, ARPANET (became the internet), Netflix, Yahoo!, MTV, U2, Oedipus Rex, Lowell Thomas (first newscaster), NBC, IBM, Hitler’s V2 rocket (If you count the Saturn V – powered trips to the moon), and so on.

    CTZN is a week old. The income distribution to the top viewed stories will ensure that only the best pieces are at the top.

    By the way, the top story in the news & politics category the last 24 hours on youtube (I quit looking after the 100th story today) has 155k hits already. What do CNN and Fox get in primetime, about a million?

    The top story in the last day on b-roll (the only one) has less than 100 hits.

  15. Michael, a while back you told me that you couldn’t understand why VJs are doing considerably better in Europe while the US, with minor exceptions has rejected the system. After seeing the piece on gambling I can understand why. Until now every VJ pieces that I’ve seen were not associated to any broadcasting programs and I assumed that they were all self assignments. But that gambling piece on CTZN.TV from a BBC VJ that won the Concentra annual award meant that’s the best that VJs have to offer, that’s sad journalism. Your alleged success in Europe is evidently attributed to the fact the Europe has a much lower standard in reporting the news that we have here in the US. From someone like me who was born there is sad.

    News is more than just reporting the news; whenever possible news reporting must also be a public service. The public not only need to be informed but also needs to be educated or warned about potential problems that could affect them directly and how to get help, and not from a voice coming from somewhere behind the camera but with accurate fact, statistical information and interviews with experts on the subject. Good news reporting requires investigations and research. Most good reporters spend days researching a story, getting facts and statistics and double checking the accuracy of the information. Only after that’s concluded will the camera will be turned on.

    I did a similar piece 13 years ago when gambling problems became a major concern in Atlantic City. Calls to Gamblers Anonymous went from about 1000 calls per month before gambling in Atlantic City to 30,000 per month after gambling was legalized.

    The reporter spent several days on the phone gathering information and pre-assembling the story, 90 percent of the story was investigating reporting, as it should be. I was hired with my soundman for a two days shoot. On the contrary of what you’ve been saying all along, even 13 years ago we did not have a crew of eight people, the crew size was no different from what it is today. We produced a complete and detailed package on addictive gambling. At Gambler Anonymous in Atlantic City we taped many actual phone conversations including one of a widow that in just a few days lost her late husband life insurance and her house (the sound was altered to prevent identification). We interviewed several people who lost everything to gambling as well as physiologists who had to quickly become specialized in compulsive gambling to meet the growing problem, we interviewed bank officers who had to foreclose on properties lost to gambling and shows actual properties, we even had a person in tears moving out from the house he lost. We interviewed casinos management who reluctantly granted the interviews on the casino’s floor as well as people while gambling. But the most important part of the report was the interviews with experts who emphasized how to recognize the symptoms of compulsive gambling and where to get help before it was too late. It was a complete package that included news reporting but most important it was a warning that this could happen to everybody. It did not just show a couple of losers who deserve their misfortune but ordinary citizens trapped in the gambling ring. It was a real and powerful “compelling” news story and a message of public interest. We did not just inform the public but we also educated them.

    This story wasn’t an exception but this was the way that every story that I worked on was reported and still is; it could be old fashioned or outdated as you’ve been preaching but it’s still the best way to serve the public, and we are here to serve the viewing public not ourselves.

    That gambling story did not win nor was it intended to win any award, that was standard news reporting and although you might call it boring to fit your agenda I would match that story to the one that won the Concentra award at anytime and let the public decide which story would be more significant and beneficiary. Granted, to the broadcaster it was more expensive to produce our story as the VJ version would, but to the public it did not cost a single penny more.

    Picture this Michael, two competing stations, one run the BBC VJ gambling story and the other run mine, which one do you think that the public would prefer to watch? And I’m sure that this was the same concern that caused broadcasters to reject the VJ system at their main method of reporting the news.

    I looked at many of the videos on the Concentra site and they are all the same unplanned cookie cutter style all done in one location and with non existing visual appeal. I applaud the US broadcaster not giving in to the appeal of “cheap television” and rejecting inferior reporting.

  16. Dear Nino
    Since ctzn.tv, what’s your trip, and the concentra awards are open to everyone, I more than invite you to upload your work to the sites and enter the competition.

  17. Michael, once again you just haven’t got a clue of what I wrote. We are talking about quality of journalism not ego trips.

    What I was talking about was that if that gambling piece was the best….. than…. that was the best that VJ journalism has to offer because if it wasn’t it would not have won what you refer to as an important journalistic award, and in spite of winning an award, it was pure journalistic crap, and that piece being the best I must assume that the rest is worse. And that wasn’t from a freelance VJ, that was from a BBC employee and that also confirms what BBC and British producers have been saying to me for the last few years and that is that VJ in Europe are bottom feeders, their main purpose is to free-up regular crews to produce more important and more profitable work.

    I’m making references in the difference of reporting standards between Europe and the US and the fact that VJ style reporting has achieved a considerably higher success (your words) in Europe in spite of an evident considerably lower quality of material produced by VJs, it could only mean that Europe has a considerable lower accepted standard that the US has in news reporting, thus that was the reason that the US has rejected VJs as a main reporting methods. There you have it, wasn’t difficult wasn’t?

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