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Summary:

Citizen journalism and social news are hard — I doubt I’d offend too many people by saying nobody is doing them really well. But Current TV, the youth-oriented cable channel, has some really interesting ideas about how to fix them. While it’s not a good sign […]

Citizen journalism and social news are hard — I doubt I’d offend too many people by saying nobody is doing them really well. But Current TV, the youth-oriented cable channel, has some really interesting ideas about how to fix them.

While it’s not a good sign that Current execs were surprised when I told them I’d actually watched their channel — given I’m squarely in their demographic! — the network is actually carried in 52 million homes by DIRECT TV (DTV), Comcast (CMCSA), and other providers. And crazily enough, the San Francisco-based company is actually profitable, according to Joanna Drake Earl, Current’s president of new media.

But now, three-year-old Current is getting with the times and getting on the web in a serious way, with a smartly revised Current.com web site launching today. Our columnist Janko Roettgers took an early gander at the beta last week and was impressed, too.

currentcom_item_page1.jpg“Current.com is more than a very slick-looking Digg clone with potential TV exposure,” he wrote.

And that’s true, but alone this combo is actually an interesting proposition. Here’s how it works. The new Current.com combines editorial input and user submissions into multimedia discussion threads (screenshot to the left). “What do you think about eating local?” or “Check out this photo I took at Burning Man.”

Each thread has the potential to become an on-air segment, and so each insightful comment or webcam upload has the potential to get a site member on TV. OK, OK, new media success is totally great, and Current can be found at the end of the dial just before FitTV (FitTV?). But people absolutely love being on television.

Current is certainly a niche network, and will probably remain that way. Nevertheless, it’s well equipped for this shift to the web; over 70 percent of Current viewers watch with their laptops open, Drake Earl said in a sit-down interview with NewTeeVee last week. That specificity should be good for attracting a community of passionate contributors, similar to Digg, argued Robin Sloan, Current’s online product strategist.

“Current does have a mission and voice and we’ve developed that on TV,” he said. “To create this vibrant environment, you don’t need millions of posts a day; you need the right people posting in the right way to bring stuff nobody expects,” added Ofer Shaked, Current’s chief architect and a recent Yahoo (YHOO) departee who had previously worked on Delicious and Yahoo Answers.

The old Current site was focused on attracting independent video creators. Current continues to pay video creators $500 to $1500 to produce segments, and is upping its creative offerings to include more how-to content and mentoring for would-be producers. And while I’m not sure the initial design quite agrees with my eyes, a section called “on tv” is a really great idea. It offers shareable clips and additional information about every piece of content that airs on TV (see screenshot below).

currentcom_on_tv.jpg

To be sure, I’ve looked at many a social news or citizen journalism site, and many times been swayed by the pitches of its leaders, only to watch it become irrelevant, closed down, or spammy. Maybe I’m just a softy because I strongly think having better and more relevant news would be a good thing — but don’t we all? We at NewTeeVee will be keeping close tabs on the new Current.com to find out how things go.

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  1. Makes sense that Current is profitable, since they pay next to nothing for content. Now that there’s new and easier ways for people to submit stuff they can air for free, I took a quick look at the terms of use.

    http://current.com/s/terms.htm

    Lo and behold, section VI.B.3 and VI.C give Current really, really broad (non-exclusive) rights to anything you submit to the site — including perpetual Internet, Promotional and Media Rights. What’s really freaky is that they demand right of first refusal if you try to strike an exclusive deal with a third party, and if after thirty days you don’t take their deal, they demand that the third party deal be struck with exactly the same terms.

    Even if you do submit written notice asking for your materials to be removed, they will only do so after a vague “commercially feasible” period of time. And they retain to the right to continue using concepts, characters and other ideas even after you’ve chosen to remove your recordings. All, of course, with no renumeration to you.

    So while people do seem to be willing to do almost anything just to appear on television, remember that participating on the site is basically giving Current free content to run their own ads against on the site and on television, and it will be something of a hassle if you ever want exclusive rights to that content back in order to get paid for your work.

    Though I warn anyone who might want to criticize this policy on the web and link to current.com, since section IV.B says the limited, non-exclusive license to link to the current.com homepage can be revoked at the company’s discretion. I’m not sure what they’d do if you continued to link to the site — seems to be a rather vague “or else.”

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  2. Very interesting, i shall look forward to any news on current.com i like the idea and i totally agree about the part of having digg like contributors and users to run the show for them.

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  3. Now only if Cablevision will finally carry Current TV…

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  4. [...] profitable. It comes back to discipline. We didn’t want to spend marketing dollars.” I reported the situation as such in my write-up on Oct. [...]

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  5. [...] profitable. It comes back to discipline. We didn’t want to spend marketing dollars.” I reported the situation as such in my write-up on Oct. [...]

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  6. [...] to be profitable. It comes back to discipline. We didn’t want to spend marketing dollars.” I reported the situation as such in my write-up on Oct. [...]

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  7. [...] Current would beef up its aggregation technology so it would not have to rely completely on its Digg-like system for news [...]

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