Everyone is a photo journalist


Our last week’s argument about “content aggregators” is slowly manifesting itself. Today Yahoo and Reuters announced that they will start incorporating user generated photos and videos of news events into their offerings.

Starting tomorrow, cameraphone users will be able to go to You Witness News and upload their photos and videos, which will also appear on the Flickr site. Yahoo and Reuters’ editors will curate this new effort. Photos will be used on many Yahoo properties including sports and entertainment sites.

The timing of such an effort is certainly right. According to Gartner, a technology research group, nearly 48% of the total phones sold worldwide in 2006 have a camera built into them. That’s  about 460 million cameraphones. By 2010 this number will increase to a billion, or roughly 81% of the total phones sold, Gartner forecasts. In other words, there is going to be a whole lot of photo-clicking going on, and some of it is going to be news worthy.
Though this is a clever idea, it is fairly disappointing to see that Yahoo is not going to compensate people if their images are used. Yahoo will sell advertising on pages that will feature those photos, and it is appropriate for them to share the money, with at least those folks whose photos are selected for the showcase. Reuters’ says it is not sure how, but it will pay for photos or videos that are selected for distribution to Reuters’ commercial users.

The biggest challenge, for Yahoo and Reuters will be getting people to submit these photos and videos. It is not clear how the photos are going to be uploaded. An ideal scenario will be a special upload tool, that is built right into the phone with one click upload ability.



Seems a logical move. This is the way of the future. Traditional media needs to embrace citizen journalism which has really taken off. Ideally traditional news outlets need a good mix of the new and the old style of reporting.

Shefaly Yogendra

Yahoo and Reuters are a tad late to the party. BBC News, which is one of the world’s most popular news sites, has been doing this for a very long time. The copyright is owned by the sender and attributed by the BBC but the owner grants BBC News “a royalty-free, non-exclusive licence to publish and otherwise use the material in any way that we want, and in any media worldwide .. may include the transmission of the material by our overseas partners”. There is no question of addressing ‘how to upload’. People can email the photos to an email ID or they can send a multimedia text to a given mobile number.

Payment? What payment? Is this not about everybody living the portentous 15-minutes of fame predicted by Andy Warhol?

Peter Sennhauser

Om, the biggest issue here are fraud, ethics, and the question of how to manage the new crodws of rubbernecks at every site of a car crash and every other “newsworthy” incident. There was no lack of user generated material so far when it came to events like 9/11 or the crash of the concorde. And while the local TV stations make anything “newsworthy” of what they have gotten some crappy video footage, I’m wondering what “news” will be in a couple of years. I’m already fed up with that kind of infoporn.

Paul Jardine

Shozu should build in some ‘magic options’ that are centrally updated, so that when a big event happens, the various wire services can get a channel presented to the user when they are uploading the photo. E.g. Send to ‘Reuters-Tube Fire story’. It would, of course, have to be somewhat location aware.


As far as addressing the biggest challenge, there are wireless applications, such as Pictavision 6.0, that have the one-click upload ability mastered. Exclaim launched Pictavision 6.0 on major carriers in October and the company works with major carriers to accelerate the capture and sharing of images from camera phones.

User-generated content is a necessary addition for these news sources.

Thomas Hawk

Two thoughts.

  1. It’s really great to see Reuter’s participating. Especially after their problem with fraudulent photo retouching issue last summer, it’s good to see them open to the idea of user generated stuff. I would have expected it under a subsidiary or something though just to distance it from their regular news photographs, if/when something goes wrong. When I met with Getty earlier this year, their editorial reputation was the number one reason why they were not doing something with user generated photos.

  2. It’s kind of BS with Yahoo! and Reuters saying that you won’t get paid or maybe you’ll get paid but on a to be determined basis. Yahoo and Reuters are both for profit companies that would theoretically benefit financially from your photos. This is different than Flickr where people simply choose to share. There is outside revenue being created by this content. At minimum they should say that users whose content is sent to Reuter’s print channel will receive minimum $100 or $250 or whatever.

Personally as a photographer I have no problem giving some content away where I feel good about the person I’m giving it to. Blogs, small news outlets, friends, yes. But I doubt I’m going to let Reuters use my photos for free and I’d imagine a lot of the best freelancers will stay away for this reason. These are the people you want submitting. The average person who captures a news shot once every 10 years will not submit to this. They don’t know about it and are not geeky enough. Also they erroneously think that their image is worth a lot more than it is. Unless you have the moment of impact of the World Trade Center disaster editorial news photos are not worth all that much and the images have a very short shelf life at that.

Yahoo/Reuters would be better off at least putting some minimum financial payment terms on the table to attract the serious freelancers who might be inclined to try this service out. This should be a core audience for a service such as this, but this audience does not work for free or for the promise of maybe getting paid.

Parker Polidor


I would love to give you some details about what my start up is doing in this space. Send me an email and I’ll get back to you.

This is a very exciting space!

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