CTV, Canada’s largest privately owned television network, has launched a new app, with the help of Toronto-based startup, Filemobile, that takes user-generated content to the next level and allows viewers to become citizen journalists.
The CTV MyNews app, which is currently available on iOS devices, allows users to post and upload content—including photos and videos—with the MyNews community, CTV’s subsidiary website for user-generated content. The website has gained more than 45,000 users and generated more than 14 million page views since 2008, according to the television network.
“There are approximately 27 million cell phones in Canada and most are cameras as well. MyNews lets us tap that tremendous pool of potential eyewitnesses to breaking news,” says Mark Sikstrom, CTV’s Executive Producer of Product and Technology Innovation. “Filemobile’s technology allows us to efficiently gather, sort and publish the thousands of great submissions we get every month.”
The app, powered by Filemobile’s user-generated platform Media Factory, lets news producers see their audience in real-time, send them geographically relevant push notifications and ensure that their audience sends them relevant news footage.
CTV’s MyNews network also added a gamified points system that rewards users for their footage.
Founded in 2006, Filemobile is an on-demand, software-as-a-service social media company that specializes in user-generated content, social networking, contests and broadband video. Media Factory, Filemobile’s flagship product, provides a content management system, widget publishing and application development system for rich media.
“We’ve been working with news organizations all over the world, helping them capture, curate and publish user-generated content,” says Steve Hulford, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Filemobile.
The platform offers audience members the opportunity to participate in what Hulford calls “user assignments.” When a story breaks, media outlets can locate their audiences on a map and deploy geo-specific mobile alerts, motivating users to capture and share their own coverage. “The producer can ‘see’ the audience and they know who to send push notifications to,” he explains.
For instance, a producer may learn of a five-alarm fire at a building in Toronto. He or she sees that the outlet has five or six audience members near the fire. The producer can send them push notifications asking them for photos and videos.
“You can build these relationships and rely on the same people for breaking news,” he says.
The concept of user-generated content—that is, inviting audience members to become involved in the news-gathering process—is nothing new. CBC has a similar subsidiary website, Your News, dedicated to encouraging audience members to submit content.
There’s also OpenFile, a now defunct Canadian media outlet launched in 2010 by journalist Wolf Dinnick that focuses entirely on “community-powered journalism.” Unfortunately, the publication shut down in 2012 due to financial issues.
Sikstrom says that, while most user-generated content platforms are “simply mailboxes” that ask for content, CTV’s MyNews incorporates interactivity. “What’s different is it’s two-way dialogue,” he says. “It’s becoming more a gathering place where users can interact with each other.”
“The ability to see where their news audience is and ask for geographically relevant content ushers in a new era in citizen journalism,” Hulford says. “We are excited to be working with CTV News to push the envelope of what is possible with user-generated news.”
In addition to CTV, Filemobile also works with other Canadian media outlets, including CBC, CP24 and The Weather Network, and American outlets such as Fox News, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.